I was feeling nostalgic reading through old diaries from the 90s, when I ran across this entry about my explorations of bulletin board systems (BBS) while I was living in Washington DC. For those too young to remember, we used to have to dialup with our 14.4 mbaud modems to connect to these somewhat clandestine text-only discussion and file-exchange areas called BBSs.
After the fold is an excerpt from my journal from November 3, 1993.
Journal Entry, November 3, 1993:
Remarkable experience today. After work I was messing around on a few local BBSs when I got onto one called "Groucho’s Grotto." The startup was pretty lengthly and technical. You actually have to send proof of ID to gain full member status on this BBS.
Well I finally got in and am wandering about, when my screen blanks, and text starts scrolling:
"Hi this is Groucho. Welcome to my grotto. Does your screen look okay?"
I think, wow, pretty smart BBS program. The text continues:
"Do the words only go halfway across your screen?"
I slowly realize that behind these words is an actual person somewhere typing away. I notice his or hers spelling mistakes and watching as he goes back and corrects them. I get this creepy feeling that someone is watching me.
After a few lines, "Groucho" goes away and I continue exploring. He pops back in every once in awhile to explain something or fix something with my setup. He is very helpful, but I kind of wish he would go away and let me wander uninterrupted.
A new experience in human contact. Kinda scary, kinda sexy.
And so it began my obsession with using technology to connect to other humans.
5 thoughts on “My first foray into online community: the BBS”
d00d. I us3dta be all about the BBS networks and trading digits with people when we found new ones and then trying to figure out whether or not they had “3l33t” sections. I remember one major board had ten phone lines and they had this amazing feature where you could log in and actually chat in real time to other people logged on to the board. It was called a “chat-room” and was the most amazing f’in thing ever.
Lol. But did you ever try and sing out the connection tone to connect with a modem using your voice?
DUDE! I remember the old local BBS systems… I used to have Procomm + and would dial in using a free list of local phone numbers that I picked up at Borders Books.
I used to play Red Dragon Inn a lot. Ahhh… them’s were the days.
You alls are too young to know about BBSs!
Wow, I used BBS’ on occasion. ProComm Lite (the free version, Plus was the pay version). 14.4 and maybe later a 28.8 dialup net connection. Hosting platforms used were CrossTalk, etc. If I recall, they had file systems where one could post or download content, typically small file size due to storage and download issue. The BBS ran the gamut from technical help to adult, you name it. Never used them that much, as cumbersome, and sort of shadowy, but they were a forerunner to the Internet, and what we now consider Web 2.0, 3-D Web, user generated content. For those that have never experienced the sound of a modem dialing into a network, you really have not lived until you do, LOL!!