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Sunday, February 17, 2008

BBSing Remembered

What in the hell is a SYSOP?

Before this whole Internet/Web fad, before AOL, before CompuServe, before even Prodigy, we had the BBS — dialup Bulletin Board Systems serving communities of computer users. BBSes had their heyday in the Eighties, and they were generally small, homebrew systems — a Sysop (System Operator) would start up a BBS by installing special software on a spare computer, attaching a modem and a phone line, and waiting for the calls to roll in.

The BBS was primarily a local thing, because generally people didn’t want to spend money to dial long-distance. So what you had in the Eighties (and still very much into the Nineties, and a bit still today) was a broad patchwork of regional online communities. This local aspect of the system was largely lost when everyone moved to the Internet, and it’s only present in niche sites like Craigslist and various City Guide sites.

In their heyday, there were over 150,000 BBSes in North America alone. There remain a mere few hundred. Here are about 10 minutes worth of clips from The BBS Documentary; they will help to shed a little light on our old world to those who weren't familiar with it:

As I reported in an earlier post, I still have my BBS, City Limits!, on it's original computer. If you click on the link in that last sentence you will be taken to an online emulation of my BBS that I created over 10 years ago. I still fire up the real thing once every few years, and log in through Front Door just for nostalgia. Blogging is as close as I have come to finding the sense of comaradery that BBSes provided.

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Blogger Kevin said...


Remind me sometime to tell you about my experience on one local BBS.....it ended with me getting a call from the FBI!!

title="comment permalink">February 18, 2008 11:04 AM  
Blogger Vic DeMize said...

Hmmm... NOW is sometime - sounds like a great story!

Anyway, my first online experience was through local BBSs (my first ever e-mail address was through a FIDO link), and although the blogosphere comes close, nothing can match the sense of camaraderie that infused the bulletin board scene. One got a real sense of family when interacting with the other regulars in the message groups and I forged friendships, particularly through City Limits that cannot be weakened by time or distance. Thanks for the shot of nostalgia, John.

title="comment permalink">February 18, 2008 12:32 PM  
Blogger John Good said...

Kevin - I look forward to hearing that story!

Vic - I still miss it.

title="comment permalink">February 18, 2008 8:12 PM  
Blogger Parson said...

LOL, sounds like a bunch of geeks.

title="comment permalink">February 18, 2008 8:37 PM  
Blogger thejasman said...


title="comment permalink">May 31, 2008 5:24 PM  

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