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View Full Version : OT: The state of BBS technology



dp
03-24-2010, 02:06 AM
In 1992 I started a BBS. It grew to 4 56K modems, FidoNet access (I was a regional coordinator for the PNW), a 56K frame relay connection to the internet, and serviced a thriving group of OS/2 enthusiasts. It was part of the genre that became what we have here at HSM. By 1997 the writing was on the wall - All Internet, all the time. FidoNet was going the way of the dodo.

This was filmed in the fall of 1993. My how the technology (and my hair color) has changed! If you get through it you'll hear me describe my 486-33 Intel powered system with 16 meg of ram and over a gig of storage. I had 8 SCSI disks in a large tower chassis. Somewhere around here I still have the original web page HTML files from that old dog.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkOIV3Iy4jQ

I didn't like Windows then, either! :)

And if you're just a glutton for punishment, here's a 1996 local tv spot done on home brewing that caught the Missus and me using a home brew service.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua9Dzauo3-s

What I learned is it's just not possible to drink a 100 bottles of beer before it goes off.

macona
03-24-2010, 04:24 AM
I ran a FirstClass based bbs for macs around 91-92. On an old Mac IIsi 3/40.

Evan
03-24-2010, 04:43 AM
I got ya beat on that one Dennis. I started the first BBS in Williams Lake in around 1982 or so. It ran on my Commodore pet using software I wrote myself. It was single user as I only had a single spare line and it ran at first at 300 baud and later at 1200 baud. Text only of course and no file transfer at first, only message posting on a single public category.

ptjw7uk
03-24-2010, 04:49 AM
In 1980 my state of the art modem was capable of download 1200 baud but only 75 upload definately a one way street. At least for text it was fine after all we were only after information not pretty pictures.

Peter

oldtiffie
03-24-2010, 05:20 AM
I am about the same as Evan.

300 baud, then wow - 1100. On an APC 111 8088/8086 computer (Japanese) running AutoCAD 2.17 - with an APC OS and an IBM OS emulation card. A huge 5MB HDD and 2 X 5 1/4" FDD and not a lot of "memory". Cost - including a single-pen Ioline plotter and a daisy wheel printer etc. etc. - was AU$20,000 - very expensive!!!

Next modem - for BBS - all on "dial-up" was about 14K - cost heaps too - and then it was up to 56K - (only AU$500 - cheap!!) lightning speed - using "Kermit" - and others.

Next computer was a "Compaq" 386/20 - used - and it cost as much as the APC111 - Compaq memory was AU$3,200 per Mb but "Kingston" was cheap at $2,400 per Mb - I bought four - and it zoomed.

All of that was under DOS 2 >6 or 7? and then Windows 2, 3, 3.1 and so on through W2K and now XP Pro and W7 Platinum.

So I don't grizzle about Windows or MicroSoft or upgrades etc. or Internet Explorer - as I am thankful that it is all as good and as cheap and reliable as it is.

And I sure do appreciate BBS technology - as it is - here at the HSM and PM - and other forums/BBS's.

I have no complaints at all.

In those halcyon days we had people in our AutoCAD Group who were doing marvelous stuff on "Apple" and "Apricot" (true!!) computers with scripting, BBS, AutoCAD "expressions and variables" (precursor of ACAD Lisp) programming language as well as memory management etc.

My first "real" "printer-plotters" were Canon dot-matrix followed by an A3 format ink-jet and more lately to Epson printers (still got - and use - 2 of them) and more latterly my "Brother" MFC laser printer.

If BBS's stayed as they are, I'd be very happy - and perhaps if they get better, I'll be even happier.

So, all in all, given where I've been and what I had and what it all cost and did etc., I am very satisfied with my computers - and the HSM, PM and other BBS's.

Or to use a Navy idiom/vernacular - I am laughing my cock off!!!

rockrat
03-24-2010, 10:56 AM
What I learned is it's just not possible to drink a 100 bottles of beer before it goes off.

Your not trying hard enough. :D

I remember the days of the modem tones. Bing bong crunchy crunchy crunchy. I wasted away an hour a night after work toying with the old bbs and fidonet. And to think, having a real time chat with someone back then on the bbs was a treat because, many of the little bbs's had only one phone line and that was used up by your older sister gabbing to her friends.

To imagine that free community wifi is becoming more and more of a reality now. If you own a system and are in a community, you have access to more information (good or bad, right or wrong) with just a few clicks.

My grandfather would be amazed.

rock~

Mcgyver
03-24-2010, 11:08 AM
In the mid 80's i wrote an online system for customers. They would dial in on a 300 baud modem and everything scrolled on their screens. the nature of the business was lots of repeat orders, 100,000's of transactions a year so any automation was a win. The would order, search our database for products and make claims for missing items. Orders were batched, skimmed by a customer service rep then released. The system at the time, a data general mini allowed me 12k per user, so you'd gather up all your variables and chain to between a whole bunch of programs to get things done.

i did a lot of systems stuff like that for a few years, wrote some neat (at least imo stuff) then switched to sales/business.....not the normal move for someone programming but for me a good one

dp
03-24-2010, 11:10 AM
When I got my Radio Shack TRS-80 in 1979 I built an expansion box for it and added a 300 baud modem. Yowza what hi-tech!. Later I bought a Columbia 'luggable' IBM compatible had two floppy drives, and I had upgraded by then to 1200 baud. Then came the modem wars where we quickly escalated through 14.4K, 26K, and finally, 56K. I still have one each of those modems in my "museum" and the TRS-80 (and MX-80 printer) still works! I turn it on once each year.

ptjw7uk
03-24-2010, 12:24 PM
Oh memories, I still got my TRS80 not switched it on for some time although I dont think I have a tape drive for it.
Those tape drives werre some fiddle to get to work. I was going to upgrade to disk drives but the small disk size 55K each and only single sided so I went the BBC route with a 400K disk drive for less than the Tandy upgrade. These modern PC's with umpteen gigabytes are to much of a luxury!

Peter

Evan
03-24-2010, 01:03 PM
My Commodore PET still works.

http://ixian.ca/pics7/cbm.jpg

http://ixian.ca/pics7/cbm1.jpg

ptjw7uk
03-24-2010, 01:35 PM
Yes but does the tape drive or the tapes!

Peter

Black Forest
03-24-2010, 01:53 PM
The first computer I bought was in 1976. It was a DEC. PDP8 with two 8" floppy disc's. I also bought a Diablo daisy wheel printer. I needed it do speed up some general office work. Word Processing was amazing to me. I was in awe of that daisy wheel printer typing both directions. My letter head stationary was glued on the top to some tractor feed paper that was in the cabinet under the printer. To be able to merge my addresses to a form letter was pure magic to me. That printer alone cost me over $6000.00! The whole system was over $30,000.00. Inclusive of a very rudimentary accounting package. Three years later I switched to Data General hardware that allowed me to have four terminals multitasking. More magic. Then I bought my first hard drive. It was the size of a dishwasher and had 8mb. fixed and 8mb on a removable platter the size of a big pizza. wow have times changed.

Evan
03-24-2010, 02:43 PM
The tape drive still works. I am not sure about the tapes but I have some software that will recover them using the sound card input on a PC. Apparently it can salvage almost any tape from a PET. The PET didn't use audio recording, it uses full saturation digital signals so the tapes aren't nearly as prone to signal loss as the TRS 80 systems.

Evan
03-24-2010, 02:50 PM
I was in awe of that daisy wheel printer typing both directions

I used to service those and when they were discontinued I got one for free from Xerox. I kept it for a long time but eventually sold it for $100 to a school or something. I do still have a TI Silent Writer thermal paper terminal that took the place for a while of the standard Teletype terminals.

I also have two working Vectrex arcade machines including just about every accessory they made. That includes the 3D visor in perfect condition like new in the box which is worth an ungodly amount of money these days. One of these days I am going to hook it up to a PC so I can disply 3D vector graphics on a 3D vector display. It's easy and I have software that will drive the vector inputs from a stereo sound card. It will display DXF files in true vector format. :D

macona
03-24-2010, 03:03 PM
The first computer I bought was in 1976. It was a DEC. PDP8 with two 8" floppy disc's. I also bought a Diablo daisy wheel printer. I needed it do speed up some general office work. Word Processing was amazing to me. I was in awe of that daisy wheel printer typing both directions. My letter head stationary was glued on the top to some tractor feed paper that was in the cabinet under the printer. To be able to merge my addresses to a form letter was pure magic to me. That printer alone cost me over $6000.00! The whole system was over $30,000.00. Inclusive of a very rudimentary accounting package. Three years later I switched to Data General hardware that allowed me to have four terminals multitasking. More magic. Then I bought my first hard drive. It was the size of a dishwasher and had 8mb. fixed and 8mb on a removable platter the size of a big pizza. wow have times changed.

Did yours have a Magic switch installed?

http://catb.org/jargon/html/magic-story.html

drof34
03-24-2010, 03:18 PM
Well, I took a course in fortran IV back in 1966 at the University of Fla. As I recall the only thing I didn't understand about the course was why my program wouldn't run.

This was on a IBM model 360 and it occupied a building about the size of my shop(30x50) or maybe a little larger.

This was the only computer on the campus and maybe the whole state.

The input was via keypunch cards and the output was teletype. I remember some one had programed the thing so the sound of the teletype played the star bangled banner.

Now I do well to send an email.

MrSleepy
03-24-2010, 03:31 PM
I've still got my BBC model b circa 1982/3..twin 51/4 disk drives..rommed Wordstar.. A midi interface card I designed and my first software..a rudimentary sequencer ...and a collection of slow modems.
Its was the biz at the time.
How things have changed.

Rob

aboard_epsilon
03-24-2010, 06:15 PM
In 1992 I started a BBS. It grew to 4 56K modems, FidoNet access (I was a regional coordinator for the PNW), a 56K frame relay connection to the internet, and serviced a thriving group of OS/2 enthusiasts. It was part of the genre that became what we have here at HSM. By 1997 the writing was on the wall - All Internet, all the time. FidoNet was going the way of the dodo.

This was filmed in the fall of 1993. My how the technology (and my hair color) has changed! If you get through it you'll hear me describe my 486-33 Intel powered system with 16 meg of ram and over a gig of storage. I had 8 SCSI disks in a large tower chassis. Somewhere around here I still have the original web page HTML files from that old dog.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkOIV3Iy4jQ

I didn't like Windows then, either! :)

i couldn't have looked at that thing ..it would have sent me to sleep ....how you could muster any enthusiasm for it ..i don't know.

about the same-time i was fooling around with first Ataris ..then Amiga's 500's

which looking at your monitors in the vid were complete worlds apart.........dont think the PCs caught up 'till windows 98


all the best.markj

jdunmyer
03-24-2010, 07:20 PM
My last BBS computer (of several, over the years) still sits on the shelf; I just can't bear to scrap it. It's a '486-66, several megs of RAM, 6-port serial card, and a 2-gig SCSI drive that cost over 2 grand when I bought it. Caching controller, of course. At one time, the BBS was up to 12 lines, plus an Internet connection. As the Internet grew, the dial-in dropped off, that's why the 6-port card. We were #55 in BoardWatch Magazine's 1994 "Top 100 BBS" contest. There were 4 6-disk CD-ROM changers online, so we had LOTS of files for download. We were also FidoNet connected, I think our node was 241/2. Running TBBS software for multiple lines on a single computer; my setup could have supported up to 64 lines running at 9600 bps.

First BBS was back in about 1984, running TBBS software on a TRS-80 Model III. Obsolesent computer, fastest BBS in town. Big ol' 10 meg hard drive. (!) Pics are on my website, but it appears to be down at the moment. http://www.oldengine.org/members/jdunmyer

topct
03-24-2010, 07:54 PM
It was one of you, what I consider the pioneers, the knowers of the how, the sharers of the wonder, that showed me this thing.

And for providing those first looks, thank you.

dp
03-24-2010, 10:19 PM
It's just fascinating how many of us went through what it takes to put up a BBS. OS/2 was a rare thing at the time and I think there were maybe 4 OS/2 bbs's running that were fully capable. Being in Microsoft's back yard as I am I had a huge number of connections from MSFT both as dial up and on the Internet. I don't think Boardwatch ever rated an OS/2 BBS as they didn't like Maximus. TBBS was all the rage.

An OS/2 user created an IP to serial port driver so folks could come in over the Internet and connect to the BBS. The BBS had 4 modems - 8 originally, but I converted 4 lines to frame relay. With the IP connections I had as many virtual modems as I wanted.

We were early adopters of sharing the FidoNet nodelist over IP rather than dialing up to Kansas City. It worked a treat. Being the RC, I did a lot of nodelist transfers and it saved a bunch of coin to use FTP and gopher.

wierdscience
03-24-2010, 11:08 PM
Okay I have a question-

Think about how much computer,storage and printer can be bought today for $1,000.

Now,how much would $1,000 buy in 1980?I'm betting not much.

dp
03-24-2010, 11:12 PM
Okay I have a question-

Think about how much computer,storage and printer can be bought today for $1,000.

Now,how much would $1,000 buy in 1980?I'm betting not much.

I think I paid $570 for my TRS-80. Best investment I ever bought.

Rich Carlstedt
03-25-2010, 12:13 AM
This thread reminds me of one of my favorite Monty Python sketches

" Ah yes, we lived in a shoe box in the middle of the road"


Great fun fellows to reminisce !

Evan
03-25-2010, 01:10 AM
My Commodore PET cost $1200. :eek: 8 kilobytes of ram until I built an expansion chassis and gave it more ram, eprom, sound, hi res graphics and two joystick ports. Hung a dual floppy disk drive on it, built a flat bed plotter for it and ran the BBS from it.

Pete F
03-25-2010, 02:03 AM
I think I paid $570 for my TRS-80. Best investment I ever bought.

Wow, really? I thought mine (well, my family's, but I used it the most) cost well over a thousand. Maybe my dad just wanted me to think that?

Boy, the days when you had to program a computer yourself if you wanted it to do anything interesting. I sometimes wonder where the younger programmers now ever got the motivation to learn it in the first place. School? Ugh.

-Pete

dp
03-25-2010, 02:28 AM
Wow, really? I thought mine (well, my family's, but I used it the most) cost well over a thousand. Maybe my dad just wanted me to think that?

Boy, the days when you had to program a computer yourself if you wanted it to do anything interesting. I sometimes wonder where the younger programmers now ever got the motivation to learn it in the first place. School? Ugh.

-Pete

That was the bare bones system (I understand the first sold in this city where Microsoft was born). It was 16K of RAM, a tape recorder (still have it, still works), the monitor, and keyboard with computer inside. I built the expansion interface from parts over the counter and up'd the RAM to 32k. Lordy that seemed like a lot of memory! I was programing in object code using t-bug, then later got an assembler for the Z-80 cpu. Then we got into packing strings in BASIC that held object code which was executable outside the BASIC interpreter. No such thing as a C compiler.

Also wrote a lot of MS BASIC stuff. Enough to get a job at Microsoft working on the Quick BASIC IDE for DOS in the mid 1980's. That became Visual BASIC in Windows and I had no interest in it. Moved on to Intel, ASSY, and C, did a stint with ADA at the UDub, C++, and even COBOL. I'd already done FORTRAN at Cal State Long Beach. Somewhere around 1994 I got swept up with Borland's Turbo Pascal tools wave - that was a great tool and a great language for quick prototyping. Less flexible than C particularly with regard to pointers and pointers to structures, but very strong typing and adequate structure. ADA was the least flexible language I'd ever used. When Windows 3.1 came out I got the MSFT C for Windows tool set and that was about the time I realized Windows was a POC. I gave up on it and moved to OS/2 and Unix.

I'd used Unix since it was new but it wasn't available on any of my hardware, unfortunately. In the early 1980's I finally got a little Sun hatbox workstation that had 32 M of RAM and a 40M hard drive. It was just slightly larger than my new Mac Mini. It had a slow Motorola CPU in it, but it was by gawd Berkeley Unix and it was great! I still have it, the keyboard, and monitor, but it doesn't run any modern versions of anything so it's collecting dust.

ptjw7uk
03-25-2010, 04:28 AM
I'm not sure these days in the UK who does do any programming, my grandson is at uni and doing computer science and is not doing any programming just applications.
Twenty years ago my son did programming for his GCE's and he built a power switch controlled by the TRS80, it could control 13amps using a solid state relay on the output, he also wrote a basic program that could output morse code using the switch to turn a lamp on and off. But times have changed and all they are interested in now is if they can use applications. I suppose business is more interested in the applications now.

Peter

Pete F
03-25-2010, 11:13 AM
I was lucky... my school had one of those computer science type math teachers, who managed to get a few PETs in the classroom. I took an interest in my older brother's homework (I was a weird kid), and ended up writing my first program (on paper) in 3rd grade at age 8. My family eventually got a TRS-80, followed by an Atari 800, which I took to college. Then on to macs, until I took a look at the job offerings for programmers as I was getting done with grad school, and noticed the ratio of windows programmer jobs to mac programmer jobs, and wrote my last application in grad school (a car navigation system for testing street network database accuracy) with MFC in C++ on a windows laptop. Macs sucked at that point anyway... this was during the Jobs hiatus.

And here I am, writing training schedule management software that runs on windows servers, for the last 12 years. How did I get here again? :confused:

-Pete

Circlip
03-25-2010, 11:50 AM
First computer just over thirty years ago was a Tatung Swinestien (Einstien really) that cost 400 photos of her majesty. This was an internal "Offer" of one of the first 100 made to set up the production lines. Had a whole 128K of Ram (whip bl***y wooo, whatever THAT meant)

One thing that has changed in the last thirty years is that todays programmers are far less frugal with lines of code thanks to ever increasing moggybite and googlybite storage systems.

Regards Ian.

lazlo
03-25-2010, 12:39 PM
Now,how much would $1,000 buy in 1980?I'm betting not much.

I started school at Virginia Tech in 1984. We were the first engineering class to be required to purchase a PC. These were the IBM-brand "Charlie Chaplin" PC's: 4.77 Mhz 8088's, 64K RAM, and a 160K floppy disk drive. It was $2,000, to which my Dad complained vigorously.


This thread reminds me of one of my favorite Monty Python sketches

" Ah yes, we lived in a shoe box in the middle of the road"

Yep, just like the "We walked 20 miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways" discussions...

Evan
03-25-2010, 02:05 PM
Yep, just like the "We walked 20 miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways" discussions...


I wrote my first code in 1963. We had a computer club at my high school. We had the use of a Bendix G-15 on Saturdays thanks to somebodies father. No interpreter, no assembler, straight octal machine ops. The G-15 was blindingly slow, I could count faster than it but it didn't lose count. Code is code no matter what machine you write for and in theory any computer can emulate any other if you disregard artificial limitations such limited memory or storage.

It was uphill both ways to school. I had to go over a ridge. :D

dp
03-25-2010, 02:35 PM
I wrote my first code in 1963.

It was in '62 or '63 that I helped build the analog computer at Berkeley HS. It was a Heath Kit. So my first programming was with jumper wires :)

As I recall it could do most of what a slide rule does, but not much more.

Evan
03-25-2010, 04:48 PM
I didn't go to Berkeley High until grade 12 which is when I was playing with the analog computer you built. We must have run into each other at least once around that time. By any chance were you in the audience when Buckminster Fuller gave a lecture at BHS in 66? How about when Kennedy spoke at the stadium below the Rad Lab?

dp
03-25-2010, 05:19 PM
I didn't go to Berkeley High until grade 12 which is when I was playing with the analog computer you built. We must have run into each other at least once around that time. By any chance were you in the audience when Buckminster Fuller gave a lecture at BHS in 66? How about when Kennedy spoke at the stadium below the Rad Lab?

I have a photo of my future MIL shaking hands with JFK - she worked at the rad lab. I think that photo showed up in the Oakland Tribune, in fact. BF was there after I left ('64).

Liger Zero
03-25-2010, 07:30 PM
First computer was a Commodore 64. Second was a EPS Labs 386 something or other with a math coprocessor and the maximum amount of ram that particular motherboard could support. I forget how much. I do remember the gigantic 200 megabyete hard-drive though.

Connected to Compuserve and Prodigy via a dialup modem... that was cool.

Next computer after that, and this is one that I purchased it wasn't a family computer like the 386... it was a 486DX-66 with all the bells and whistles. I worked lots of overtime and spent most of my first "profit sharing" bonus on that.

After that I upgraded to the Pentiums.... starting with a 75mhz one.. then I lost track and generally upgraded every 18 months budget permitting.

My first computer memory as it stands... playing Blue Max on the C-64 with Uncle Fred. Little bi-plane that flew across the screen you had to dodge flack and bomb things.