BBSs and the People Who Ran/Called Them

So who here ran a BBS or used to call BBSs back in the day?

My first experience with a modem was in high school when we had an Apple 2 Plus in one of our rooms, with a 300 baud modem. We would go down there after school and the teacher would leave us alone, so we started looking around to find places to call. I think the first place we called was the Library of Congress. I don’t even remember what they had in terms of software, but it was a mind-blowing experience. Then we discovered some local BBSs to call, and we would call them. This happened until we all graduated.

Right after graduation I didn’t have a home computer yet (other than a VIC-20) suitable for BBS calling, so I would go to a friend’s. That’s when I discovered a local BBS running Citadel software, which is when I decided I needed to put up a BBS. A friend ended up getting me a killer deal on a Kaypro CP/M machine which I used to run my BBS for a year or more, then I got an IBM XT clone at an electronics swap meet and ran that for maybe 5 more years.

In the early 90’s money got tight for a while so I had to take my BBS offline because I couldn’t afford the 2nd phone line with Long Distance charges for networking anymore (kids, ask your folks), so I just called BBSs and such.

It wasn’t long after that until I got my first PPP dialup internet account, and the whole damn world changed.


I started calling BBSs shortly after I purchased my first PC in college (a Sperry HT - IBM-XT clone) and got a modem. I kept calling them for a good 10 years or so and saw them fade away as the Internet took over.

For a short time, I ran my own BBS on my old PC after I upgraded my main system.

I’m afraid I was the worst kind of BBS user: I called up exactly once, uploaded nothing, and persuaded the sysop to allow me a download. The only thing I wanted was some specific library or utility which would allow me to connect to an ISP! (This was with an Amiga 500. And maybe connecting at 2400, although possibly 9600.)

I was a BBS sysOp back in 1989 to 1995. It was tons of fun and had a massive 2 lines. The most of the time people spent online was playing door games - and many times just talking to the sysOp.

I ran RemoteAccess and later on ProBoard. Using DOS and DesQView multitasker; and later on OS/2 (the latter kicked ass! - OS/2 was awesome)

I remember getting this new Fossil driver (Serial port driver) that allowed MNP5 protocol to be software added to a standard 2400 modems. I got endless hours of pleasure trying to eek the highest speeds out if a download protocol… (Zmodem, super8k, Kermit etc)

Using the ANSI-Art DRAW application for artwork was always a challenge for the artistically challenged (myself!)

Life went on - and the internet made them redundant.


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I ran a BBS out of my college dorm room using a Fax switch. 616-394-NEWT,2222 was the number so you could get access to the BBS. (Later the number changed as I moved to a different dorm room, along with the name: “Sanity Obscure” or “Whatsamatta U”, depending on the year. It ran from 1990 to 1993.

The BBS ran on an Atari 800XL / 130XE, with up to 4 floppy disks (later a HDD using Black Box). It started life as an Oasis Lite / Pro BBS and then later became BBS Express Professional. I still have the disks for both Oasis Pro and BBS Express Professional.

I still called BBSes for a bit after I got the internet, but once 1994 hit I left most (all?) of that behind.

If you remember someone named Permanent Waves on BBSes chances are that was me.

Oh, and my first BBS memory was when I used a 300 baud modem that I bought from a friend (Atari 835) to call BBSes in Roseville, MI. I dutifully called after school (1989ish). Unfortunately that was also the time that I realized what a zone phone call was. My dad opened up a phone bill that was over $100. That was one of three times that my dad yelled at me.

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I used to run OS/2, also, when I got my first “good” PC. It was a Pentium 90, and a friend was a big fan, and started a local User Group. Powerful OS.

I once think I ran up a $300 long distance phone bill, back in the day. Then I discovered PC Pursuit. Most of the BBSs I called were in the area codes they offered so it was a nice deal.

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Wow. I remember PC Pursuit.

As a normal BBS caller, it wasn’t real useful for calling long distance BBSs on a regular basis. I know that I mainly used it to leech off other BBSs.

But I know that many Sysops used it to do their mail transfer and keep their costs down.

The latency was a pain in the butt, but I found it super useful. I used it every day. I don’t think I knew anyone who used it for anything other than normal BBS calling.

PC Pursuit was created out of need by the parent company (SprintNet?).

Their X.25 network was set up for companies - for pretty much the same reason that BBS users used PC Pursuit. But, of course, companies didn’t use it much after work hours. But they had to keep everything running 24/7.

So PC Pursuit was created to bring in revenue by getting people to use (and pay for) that low-use time.

The company that I worked for at the time used that network to communicate with their smaller offices country-wide.

UK person here…

BBSs here were not popular at all - mostly because of the extortionate costs of making a phone call. No such thing as free local calls, etc. so no Fidonet, etc.

We did have Prestel though, but it was still expensive to call and worse, some pages were pay per view too. There was a section for computer hobbyists - Micronet 800 with an online MUD game to play (Shades). All good stuff. All resulting in huge phone bills. Ah well.

There was a dark period late 80’s/early 90’s before the commercial Internet took off in the UK, and even then the phone calls for PPP dialup were expensive and it took the cable companies who did start to allow the free local call thing to break the monopoly of BT, then calling plans improved and while still expensive, it was almost affordable for some.



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I’m familiar with Prestel…



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Hahaha (LoL, etc.).



Thanks. I never really thought about it, but the BBS scene would never have taken off here in the U.S. if it wasn’t for free local calls.

We did have a thing called a “midnight line”… That gave free calls from midnight to (I think) 8am. However the standing charge for that more or less made it prohibitive for all but the very rich (or foolish).

The other thing that we had was PSS (Packet switched network). It was intended for companies and universities (early on) and run by BT. With a local phone number, (still billed per minute), you connected in either via dial-up modem and needed a password… However every month the demo passwords would change and almost every month it would be leaked. It really was no big secret. So all you then needed to know was the address of the site you wanted to talk to and you had a telnet-like terminal interface. The busiest site… Almost probably without exception was Essex University MUD…


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You do realize having the handle Drogon makes everyone think you’re a big Game of Thrones fan?

You have no idea the issues that has caused…

However, I’ve been using it since 1992 when I used it as the name of a MUD I wrote which subsequently ran for bit over 20 years. (The Land of Drogon) It’s also an anagram of my name, but you know that. Registered in 1995 - wished I’d gotten the .com at the same time. Live and learn.


Back when I got my first computer (a Franklin Ace 500), and then finally a modem ( 2400 baud) I tried to log on the the
Atomic Cafe to see what software I could find. I got a nasty message, telling me to get a faster modem. What really surprised me was that it was an Apple // BBS and I had thought previously that the entire Apple // community was friendly and helpful. :cry:

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There were always some “Elite” (i.e. stuck up) communities in BBS-land, but most were friendly.

The unfriendly ones tended to just fade away (and no one really noticed).

I started calling BBSes around 1987 or '88 and used them until around 1995 when I got my first shell and then PPP account. The first BBS I really used was called Abort, Retry, Ignore. It was a single line BBS and didn’t have any door games that I recall, but it did have some downloads and there were forums (I think it referred to them as SIGs). I think it may have been a FidoNet node as well, since I seem to recall there being some distinction between local and net SIGs. There were a bunch more that I called as well but I don’t remember the names of any of the others until I found chat BBSes.

The first chat-oriented BBS I used was called TREX. It was located in Mountain View It took me a while to realize it was mostly targeted at gay men, but everyone was really nice and there were enough people on there around my age to keep me entertained. Now that I look back on it we were a fairly strange bunch: a bunch of teenage boys and girls hanging out with a bunch of gay adult men.

TREX had a sister BBS, LOIS, in Santa Maria. I traveled down there with a friend of mine who ran a BBS called Mail Stop to go to one of their gatherings, then went to another on my own a while later. I ended up working with LOIS’s sysop at an ISP in Santa Clara later on.

The three main MajorBBSes I used were Magic Kingdom, run by a kid younger than me, Inferno, which was always full of drama, and Phosphor, run by a mom. Phosphor also happens to be where I originally met my wife. Her handle was Talkie Toaster, and she was 14 at the time. We lost touch and I married someone else in the meantime, but we happened to run into each other again on OkCupid after separating from our respective exes, and it turned out we had moved within 2 miles of one another.

My use of BBSes led fairly directly into my career. One of the guys my age I knew from TREX ended up working at NETCOM and got me a job there doing tech support. My next job was at another ISP, where I worked with Pete Bowden, the sysop of LOIS, as well as another TREXer.

My sister now lives next door to a couple we knew from TREX, completely by coincidence.