Dial-up nostalgia

Back in around 1990 I started my own dial-up Bulletin Board System. In those days we did not connect to the internet to upload releases or chat with friends. Instead we dialed up to BBS’ which were hosted in our localhome.

Visit the board through telnet or ssh on bbs.opicron.eu or use the integrated telnet, or onscreen keyboard client

Modem speed was expressed in baud and I do remember very well seeing the screen build up character by character when using my first 2k4 baud modem. It was so slow! It did however opened up the scene and thus my programming enthusiasm.

In this post I’d like to show the various artwork designs and programs build in my old board TheForze a.k.a. Blue Thunder.

Software

Terminate

For dial-up connections we used software like Terminate. Using the internal phonebook to make the daily calls to various friendly boards.

It provided an protocol to up- and download files. The most famous ones were X-modem and Z-modem.

My favorite protocal was Bi-modem which allowed for simultaneous up- and download while being able to chat with the sysop or user.

Remote Access

The actual bulletin board was run on Remote Access. It provided an fully customizable host platform.

File groups to accept and offer scene content. Message groups to allow for private and public messaging. User groups, custom menus, multi node support and much more.

Configuration was partly done in the raconfig program but most was done in text configuration files.

Graphics

We used to have 80×25 characters on a screen. Of which we could use 24 rows most of the time due to status bars in either the dial-up as bbs software. Graphics were spiced up with ASCii and ANSi artwork.

Login screen

Chain equals security / off-limits

The login is pretty straight forward, username and pass. Some boards featured an front door which is used to collect mail mainly. With those boards you have to select “Login” before seeing the actual login screen.

Various main menus

During the years the board changed name and main menu screens a few times. The most remarkable I have listed below. Man this brings back memories!

Initially my bulletin board was called “Blue Thunder”. I can not find an full main menu but fortunately I did find the logo.

After a year or two I change the name to “TheForce” and lastly to “TheForze”. In below gallery it shows the transition from my first so-called elite spelling, to a more dark theme and lastly my favorite clean style.

Doors

Programs which ran on the board were called doors. In the years I coded quite a lot and prepared them as scene releases. Imagine logging in to some random boards at age 12’ish and seeing other sysops using your software. I guess this was one of the main drives to continue coding in later life.

Mail check

I customized the mail check to show various neutral characters when checking mail. After checking mail it showed either an sad or happy face depending if you had mail or not.

Loved adding these small enhancements because it made the board feel unique.

Wall of fame

One of the first doors I developed was the wall of fame oneliner. Visitors of the board could leave one line of text for other visitors to see. Think of promotion of their own board, random rants and holiday wishes. On the left side is my old board design and on the right side the current version on the revival board.

Future

BBS’ are booming

Late 2020 have seen an increase in activity of boards reappearing. The FSX network is very active and I believe a lot of us are craving real, like-minded contact again.

I have re-build my old remote access board and used all the old graphics on an new mystic based board. For smooth deployment I created a synology docker container which can be found on the following github. Instructions to deploy the container can be found in the readme.

The new board can be visited through telnet or ssh on bbs.opicron.eu or you can use the online telnet client.

Netrunner

A great telnet client for ansi based bulletin boards is Netrunner. It is developed in combination with mystic board and can be found on the following download page.

Mystic

As Remote Access was the MS-DOS version of a bulletin board server, Mystic is an multi platform server.

It runs on Windows, Linux and I believe Meatlotion has it running on his telephone =).

To me it feels very much as the old Remote Access configuration but with a lot of great improvements. If you wish to set up your own board I can not promote Mystic enough.

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