What is a BBS?

BBS stands for Bulletin Board System. Before Google, before Twitter, before YouTube, before EVERYTHING you do with a web browser or an app... there were computer bulletin boards. Think of a BBS as sort of like Discord, but you could do more than just read and write messages. You could have online games (called doors), you could have files to upload and download. You could chat with other users. And it was a lot of fun. To access a BBS, you used a telephone modem and a DOS terminal program. And of course if you called bulletin boards that were far away, you had a big phone bill. I ran one myself for 5-6 years, called The Lost City. The BBS software and everything I used for the BBS were DOS programs. My computer didn't even have Windows on it. It didn't even have a hard drive! Everything was stored on a couple of large floppy disks. When people called the bulletin board, I could actually hear the disk drives grinding.

Guess what. Computer bulletin boards are back!!! And I think there are more of them than ever, but most of these boards are run by old guys like me who used to run bulletin boards back in the early days of the Internet. We need users. People like YOU. It takes a while to get used to these bulletin boards, but once you get the hang of it they are fun to use. And these days you don't need a telephone modem to call them because you can access them through the Internet using a special protocol called Telnet. So no more big phone bills. If you have Internet access and a computer, all you need is a terminal program. Actually you don't even need that, but the terminal program makes it a lot easier.

Don't expect to see fancy graphics on computer bulletin boards. They use graphics called ANSI, which is similar to ASCII, but constructed from a larger set of 256 letters, numbers, and symbols — all codes found in IBM code page 437, often referred to as extended ASCII and used in MS-DOS and Unix environments. In other words, ANSI graphics are pretty crude, but hey, you can create ANSI art with DOS.


Your SysOp, Alonzo

Alonzo (aka Dave Scott) is Head Honcho at Congruent Acoustics, an acoustic research facility located in Ohio, USA. He is also a Computer Bulletin Board enthusiast. For several years in the 1990s he ran a BBS called The Lost City. He has recently decided to get back into the BBS scene, and so on October 31, 2022 he launched an all-new Telnet BBS called The Unmarked Van.

Telnet: . Telnet is a client/server application protocol that provides access to virtual terminals of remote systems on local area networks or the Internet.