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The Lost Civilization of Dial-Up Bulletin Board Systems

  • LiberalArkie (4100 posts)
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    The Lost Civilization of Dial-Up Bulletin Board Systems

    I have a vivid, recurring dream. I climb the stairs in my parents’ house to see my old bedroom. In the back corner, I hear a faint humming.

    It’s my old computer, still running my 1990s-era bulletin board system (BBS, for short), “The Cave.” I thought I had shut it down ages ago, but it’s been chugging away this whole time without me realizing it—people continued calling my BBS to play games, post messages, and upload files. To my astonishment, it never shut down after all.

    BBSes once numbered in the tens of thousands in North America. These mostly text-based, hobbyist-run services played a huge part in the online landscape of the 1980s and ‘90s. Anyone with a modem and a home computer could dial-in, often for free, and interact with other callers in their area code.

    Then the internet came along in the mid-1990s. Like a comet to the dinosaurs, it upended the natural order of things and wiped BBSes out. My system was one of the casualties, a victim of the desire to devote all my online time to the internet. The same scenario repeated itself on thousands of computers across the country until, one by one, the brightest lights of the BBS world blinked out of existence.


    Satan, formercia, Demeter and 8 othersAlkene, Haikugal, Coyote Walks, Selahedin, ThouArtThat, nevereVereven, Babel 17, Downwinder like this

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  • Pacco Fransisco (4077 posts)
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    1. Been there done that. Atari 800 XL and Space Mountain BBS eventually with doors.

    I am L0oniX  Fuck David and his pin head DLC 3rd way herd of goats
  • hollys mom (907 posts)
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    2. I was there back then. Not games but mostly discussing the computer consulting

    I try and explain it to people and they just don’t understand before the internet. It is the distant past to them. The dark ages. even friends my age were just not on-line back then. I heard about this one bulletin board from a friend in the business, and it helped me a lot. I did not belong to others But my ex-husband did belong to a software trading one.

  • mntleo2 (121 posts)
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    3. There is still an old BB person I used to work for

    He operates his ISP out of his basement and yes he has shell accounts. I will tell you this; if anyone knows the Undernet and all its secrets it is him. He is a Unix and Linux genius. He is called Nanook and he is at: I bet he might have a few of those old games lying around on one of his servers to boot (tho I cannot promise that).

    Hope this helps …

    Cat in Seattle

    Cat in Seattle   >^..^<   "I like democracy *not* xenocracy..."  ~  Frank Zappa
    • Akallabeth (2234 posts)
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      4. Back in the day I used my old 386 PC and a telebit trailblazer to connect

      in the pre-internet era, I still remember the noise it made fondly.. like a honking or like a moose mating call.. then they would connect and negotiate a link.. It always made a solid 19.6 kbps connection..

      For a little while it was my prized possession. Then it was replaced by 28.8k, 56k..

      "Out of many, one"