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Author Topic: 1986 dial-up bulletin board system has brought the old Web back to life  (Read 838 times)

mouser

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Quote
Today, many can be forgiven for thinking that the digital communications revolution kicked off during the mid-1990s, when there was simply an explosion of media and consumer interest in the World Wide Web. Just a decade earlier, however, the future was now for the hundreds of thousands of users already using home computers to communicate with others over the telephone network. The online culture of the 1980s was defined by the pervasiveness of bulletin board systems (BBS), expensive telephone bills, and the dulcet tones of a 1200 baud connection (or 2400, if you were very lucky). While many Ars readers certainly recall bulletin board systems with pixelated reverence, just as many are likely left scratching their heads in confusion ("what exactly is a BBS, anyway?").


MilesAhead

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I remember in the late 80s and early 90s if you were a consultant and therefore had a business incentive or just had lots of money, you had a CompuServe account.

I didn't have either.  But during one of my consulting gigs at IBM Boca PC Center one of the tasks I had was to help people overcome basic programming hurdles, be it for Dos, Windows or OS/2.  I thought it was so cool because they gave me a CompuServe account to post code snippets in response to questions.  At that point I had never done any programming for Windows.  I had to dig around to find working code so that I could understand how to do whatever it was that was asked.  Then I would write an example snippet and post it after testing that it ran without crashing.

Of course there was always some feedback of the "why do they make you do it that way?  That makes no sense" variety.  Unfortunately I was not allowed to reply "I don't know.  They don't invite me to the board meetings."  So I would just say that I didn't know why these particular flags had to be set when making such and such API call, even though there seems to be no rhyme or reason for it.  All I know is if I don't set them the call returns with an error.  Maybe me catching some of the flack there avoided support calls or something, if it happened to concern an IBM compiler.  :)

It was kind of fun though.  And it got me started with the old fashioned message loop switch statement type of Window processing.

One of the user groups I joined was The C Users Group which gave birth to The C Users Journal.  Getting published in that journal enabled me to break into the business as a Software Analyst with no relevant work experience.  A lucky break.  They solicited articles in the magazine with specifications for the article text and working code.  I submitted an article and forgot about it.  Never thinking it would actually be published.  But a couple of months later I got a call from a CUJ Editor.  Anyway, if I tell everything now nobody will buy the biography.  :)  I call it a biography rather than an autobiography because my plan is to ghostwrite my biography, then hire another writer to put his name on it and take the blame.  :)

By the way, speaking of nostalgia, The C/C++ Users Group has a page on the web here:
C/C++ Users Group

Edit:  Note that The C/C++ Users Journal was purchased by the company that owned Dr. Dobb's Journal.  The CUG site is just an archived page and links to the journal are no longer valid.  However they did archive the articles published in CUJ.  I wish they also archived the cover images for the monthly magazines but back in those days image files must have seemed like they used a lot of storage.  Fortunately for me four of my articles, those that were published in CUJ, still survive there.  I have links to them on http://milesaheadsoftware.org if anyone is curious.





« Last Edit: April 11, 2017, 10:14:35 AM by MilesAhead »

MilesAhead

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When they mention "expensive phone bills" in the article it reminded me of learning my lesson the hard way on a software download.  I was living in Boca Raton and found a BBS phone number in South Florida where I could download the software package I wanted.  Later when I got the phone bill I saw that the "free download" cost me $18 and change.  It turns out calling long distance after 11:00 PM to the West Coast of the USA and getting the download from there was about 10 times cheaper than Southern Bell long distance inside Florida.  I learned to get off the land line and onto the satellite asap!   :)

x16wda

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I remember in the late 80s and early 90s if you were a consultant and therefore had a business incentive or just had lots of money, you had a CompuServe account.

I was a sysop on the Atari forums there for several years - my signon was 76703,4061 (and I'm amazed my fingers remembered that :P). I wrote an automated system to collect all the new Forum messages, log off, let you reply to everything offline, then connect up and post it as fast as possible. Reduced the revenue for the Forum owners, since they were paid by the minute, but it increased participation... until that Internet thing started taking off. Good times, good times. ;D
vi vi vi - editor of the beast

mouser

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Nice  :Thmbsup: :Thmbsup: :Thmbsup:

cranioscopical

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Ah... the... wonder... of... the... 300... bored... modem.  I... wonder... how... long... this... will... take...

wraith808

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Ah... the... wonder... of... the... 300... bored... modem.  I... wonder... how... long... this... will... take...

That was before we knew any better.  It was a lot faster with 2400 baud  :huh:  Well... relatively  ;D

40hz

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There's a good 8-part documentary on Youtube. Do a search for BBS The Documentary.

It'll bring a smile of recognition (and maybe sadness) to those of us who had been there in those magical early days of pre-web and FB online communities.


 

wraith808

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It could be because I was younger, and there were more things that I was intensely passionate about, but it seemed that the slow transmission of text and images, also slowed down the stream of the negative consequences of online socialization.  It seemed that the flame wars I did see were over something of more substance than the latest reality star antics.  And they were rarely as vicious and long lived.

Something on this very subject:

http://massis.lcs.mi...line2006-1/0180.html

And a guide to Bulletin Board Systems still in operation:

http://bbs.guide/

MilesAhead

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Ah... the... wonder... of... the... 300... bored... modem.  I... wonder... how... long... this... will... take...

My brother went to Wentworth Institute(if that is not a redundancy.)  He had an account on a PDP-11 there.  We dialed in on a modem with suction cups similar to the model below.  Talk about a dinosaur.  :)

acoustic_modem.jpg1986 dial-up bulletin board system has brought the old Web back to life

MilesAhead

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Re: 1986 dial-up bulletin board system has brought the old Web back to life
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2017, 03:15:27 PM »
I wrote an automated system to collect all the new Forum messages, log off, let you reply to everything offline, then connect up and post it as fast as possible.

It's always nice when programming skill can directly save you cash!!  My favorite kind of programming.   :Thmbsup:

app103

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Re: 1986 dial-up bulletin board system has brought the old Web back to life
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2017, 05:23:14 PM »
textfiles.com has one of the few traces of my brother that exists on the modern internet, in their historical 80's version BBS list (he died in the mid 90's).

Screenshot - 4_17_2017 , 6_07_28 PM.png

Arizona Hot

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Re: 1986 dial-up bulletin board system has brought the old Web back to life
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2017, 05:57:37 PM »
I was online before the Internet(locally in the Seattle area only), I never(maybe) had one of the phone cup modems. If I did, I switched to a direct connect 300 baud modem early(then to 600, 1200 and 2400 baud modems). I was known as Whatever then. I wasn't interested in the hacked games that were so common on those boards, I supplied music and pictures to the places I visited. I had trouble getting on the Internet(when it became available) because I had a Commodore computer which was too primitive for the Internet(very durable though until I had to get rid of it for lack of space), until I got my first PC(Windows 95). Did any of you have a version before that? The Commie was at least 15 years old and still going strong(even if there was nothing for it available online) when I had to get rid of it, unlike my more recent machines which all have died on me unexpectedly(with their boots on so to speak). I still have all my Commodore pictures and music(translated to more recent and usable formats).

techidave

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Re: 1986 dial-up bulletin board system has brought the old Web back to life
« Reply #13 on: April 18, 2017, 08:06:33 PM »
Ah... the... wonder... of... the... 300... bored... modem.  I... wonder... how... long... this... will... take...

My brother went to Wentworth Institute(if that is not a redundancy.)  He had an account on a PDP-11 there.  We dialed in on a modem with suction cups similar to the model below.  Talk about a dinosaur.  :)

[ Invalid Attachment ]

John Deere parts department used a modem like the one pictured here to irder their parts. I think it was back in the early to mid 80s.   I only saw it, never used it.

mwb1100

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Re: 1986 dial-up bulletin board system has brought the old Web back to life
« Reply #14 on: April 18, 2017, 11:56:22 PM »
I wrote an automated system to collect all the new Forum messages, log off, let you reply to everything offline, then connect up and post it as fast as possible.

Was that something like OzCIS/OzWin?  I had forgotten all about that.

x16wda

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Re: 1986 dial-up bulletin board system has brought the old Web back to life
« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2017, 05:22:58 AM »
Was that something like OzCIS/OzWin?
Pretty much, except this was for Ataris. I didn't get a Win box until several years after that.
vi vi vi - editor of the beast

Arizona Hot

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Re: 1986 dial-up bulletin board system has brought the old Web back to life
« Reply #16 on: April 22, 2017, 07:35:26 PM »
Has anyone tried to reach the board using anything other than the Star Fleet Headquarters system?

I tried using the FireSSH Chrome extension and didn't get connected.