Did You BBS?

Did you BBS?

What’s a BBS you ask?

Not too long ago indivduals, hobbyists, some non-profit groups and businesses ran online services called a computer bulletin board service, or BBS for short. I became aware of BBS’s in the mid 1980s after I bought my first computer, a Macintosh Plus. Shortly after I bought a modem. It was a wickedly fast Emerson 2400 baud. You connected the modem to the computer and a telephone line. You then dialed into the BBS service and read and posted messages, got email, downloaded software and played online games.

Living out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, finding a local BBS was not very hard. The first 2 that I found were actually listed in the phone book. My first login was to a place called “Rat’s Nest BBS” where I found a message board, software that I could not run on my Mac, pictures and a list of about 50 to 70 other BBS’s in town.

The list was the goldmine. (PDF download)

After capturing that list, I dialed into just about every listed BBS and eventually became a regular member of about a dozen of them. My favorite BBS’s using a CLI interface were the GT Power boards. These featured their own echo message bases (similar to fidonet) that had to be traded between different computers over a worldwide network. I remember each night at around 1 or 2 AM, people were not allowed to call into certain BBS’s because that is when they did their mail and message runs. The next day on login we’d get a bunch of new discussion messages, and sometimes email. The GT Power boards also had local message areas and “door games” where you could play with other members of the board.

Honolulu was a hotbed for GT Power Boards as 2 local system operators (sysops for short) ran about a half dozen computers (maybe more) that connected to other GT Boards around town. If you remember names like Listening Post, Ham Radio Landline, Country Cupboard, Random Motion, Fantasy Island, and Aloha BBS. Other Honolulu BBS’s included Saimin that was 300 baud for the longest of time, Mac BBS, Flex (now an internet provider), DBED (was great for interisland email), Hawaii Online, KHSBBS, Prophet’s Place, Black Hole, and others.

I used the Mac Plus for about 5 years before moving on to a color Macintosh IIsi and a Supra 14.4 modem. At the peak of the BBS craze, Honolulu alone probably had a little more than 100 of them. Most had CLI interfaces based usually on the DOS platforms the boards were set up on.

Soon graphical interfaces were made available. The national dial up services which you had to pay a per minute charge to get access began rolling out dial-up GUI’s. America Online, Compuserve, GEnie, Prodigy and Delphi were some of the big services that had access numbers in Hawaii. These were the first services to offer internet access by the mid 1990s. College students and faculty had internet access for quite some time mainly through the University of Hawaii’s Unix system.

Macintosh users soon got their own GUI at the BBS level through use of the Telefinder interface. Mac BBS, HonBlue, H4 Hawaii’s Data Superhighway and Kailua High School’s KHSBBS were some of the popular Telefinder BBS’s in Hawaii. Software upgrades to Telefinder soon allowed internet users access to many more Telefinder boards around the world.

By 1994 Hawaii had its first commercial internet access providers. Flex was probably the first commercial internet access provider. They were soon followed by LavaNet, Hawaii Online and PixiNet. Other firms soon followed these pioneers during the last years of the 1990s. All offered dial up access through the use of standard analog modems.

A few years later Oceanic Cable rolled out their RoadRunner broadband service and soon after the local ISPs were clamoring to get on the broadband bandwagon.

As we all know internet access and the worldwide web in particular quickly eclipsed the local BBS’s. In short time many and nearly all of the local Honolulu BBS’s closed down. Everyone it seemed had migrated to the internet.

The local BBS’s offered their users the chance to be members of little online communities. Some of the BBS operators and members had real life get-togethers where users got to meet other members face to face. Since BBS’s were mostly hobby boards and small online communities, users almost never got spam email through the local system. That was nice.

The old days of the BBS are behind us and I doubt that they will ever return. The closeness of the small online community once enjoyed by BBS users have been replaced with the tremendously large, media rich internet blessed with all kinds of items to access, use and download. The largeness of the internet itself has also brought about its own problems — spam email, proliferation of malware, questionable and illegal business schemes and criminal activity. So much for the good old days. I miss them.

7 Comments so far

  1. Mr. Wendell (unregistered) on August 22nd, 2005 @ 11:33 pm

    HAHA omg. I used to be an unofficial “noodle” on Saimin being that Rabbit Man was my college roommate. Also, it was down by 1993, but I used to have sysop status on Sirius Cybernetics for the Mac section. (yeah, yeah…Mac warez.)

    I was also a subscriber to HIX/386 – I think that was Hawaii’s first public UNIX. I remember the sysop was some guy named Bobzilla. HIX was “Hawaii Information Exchange” and I know they morphed into one of the providers. I forget which one.

    Reno’s Tavern was the first “adult” chat board. I think the guy’s name was Reno Tolentino, and the board was basically there so that guy and his wife could mess around with the users.

    I miss the old BBS system.

  2. Duane (unregistered) on September 27th, 2005 @ 11:27 pm

    WOW! Brings back memories. I was on the local BBSs 86-90. Remember going to Seadog alot. It was run by a Japanese HAM that was working on Oahu. His assistant sysop had given me a load of software to run on my first computer. It was a TRS-80 Model 4P. Those were great times. I ran a Maximux BBS while I was stationed in Japan from 90-93.

  3. Candie (unregistered) on October 17th, 2005 @ 6:42 pm

    I was the sysop over at Sugar & Spice from ’93 until ’95 or so… we moved to Honolulu from SC right when the major downturn in BBSes happen. Really miss the “personal” nature of a local BBS… ah, but progress, right?

  4. Etoin Schrdlu (unregistered) on October 28th, 2005 @ 4:37 am

    Ah such memories … I was the sysop of Dirty Duck BBS, hosting a collection of scruffy text porn and Amiga stuff. Running the BBS was fun, everything was slower at the time and there was pleasure in having people logon and watching their text crawl across the monitor screen. In actual time, the early 90’s isn’t long ago, but it seems ancient now. Maybe it’s the way time compresses and expands depending on one’s mood. At that time I didn’t hate being in the middle of nowhere as much as since them. Now it’s grown into fierce isolation-loathing and I have finally decided to leave the 40-60-mile rock for the SouthWest mainland next summer. Maybe I’ll start-up another BBS, just for the heck of it…

  5. Andrew Lawlor (unregistered) on November 7th, 2005 @ 10:34 am

    I lived on Oahu between 1992 and 1995 and spent my nights online through several of the BBS’s. There were two in particular that I visited daily. One was a multi-line board that could support up to 8 users simultaneously and was quite popular. I met a local gal there and eventually married her. I can’t remember the name of the service. There was another one on which I had thousands of pre-paid credits avialable when I transferred out to Nebraska. I still accessed the system for a couple years after I left. Those truly were the good old days, eh? lol

  6. Andrew Lawlor (unregistered) on November 7th, 2005 @ 10:35 am

    I even recognize that last poster’s name, ETOIN SCHRDLU, from those BBS days.

  7. corytomo (unregistered) on February 23rd, 2006 @ 10:12 pm

    Ahh the memories…
    I probably had an account on every BBS from the late 80’s to the late 90’s, many great memories there.
    Saimin is still around.. in forum/html form.
    See my forum site for saimin forums, and http://saimin2.com/directory for Rabbit Mans site.

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