Chapter Twenty-One - Bulletin Board Systems
I started a BBS in 1978, using a small computer and a 300 Baud
Modem. The Modem was really an acoustic coupler and when someone called
I had to manually insert the phone in the acoustic coupler and hope I
could get it seated before the carrier signal was lost. Most of the
people calling were using terminals instead of computers and there was
no way they could download files. The BBS catered to message traffic at
I got a CP/M computer with a ten megabyte hard drive, something
I was sure would never fill up. I got a 1200 baud external Hayes
Smartmodem. We were beginning to get calls from all over the world and
most callers wanted to download files. I managed to get a 32 megabyte
hard drive to work and we were really big-time.
I finally went to an external 2400 baud modem to work on the old
Kaypro and suddenly we were famous. We had boards calling from all over
the world. The expenses went on and on and very few people were able or
willing to contribute. The cost of running a BBS were getting too high
to continue. I knew I had to do something.
I had things all to myself in the early days as a BBS was very
difficult to set up and learn. I had switched to a Tandy 1000 SX to run
the BBS and everything looked okay.
BBS software became easy to obtain and run. It did most of the
old things we once had to do manually. With the advent of smart BBS
software it suddenly became feasible to set up and run a BBS and it
seemed that everyone wanted in on the act and BBS' started springing up
everywhere. Many of the BBS' were free and the new Sysops would call my
BBS and leave mail asking users to switch to their board. Some of the
new BBS' used larger and more powerful computers and in some cases
convinced users that their BBS software was more user friendly.
Eventually there were so many BBS' that it was not possible to
get continued support and I had to close my BBS. The BBS had been my
life for fifteen years and it was a real shock to discontinue.
Scott Gray, a real friend, went into the computer business and
sold me a 386DX 40 MHZ with 340 megabytes hard disk space. I installed
three CD ROM drives and obtained 40 CD ROM shareware disks. I also
changed to ROBOBoard/FX, a graphic BBS system and users could view files
in VGA mode. It was a very sophisticated system, really superior to
anything the dozen or so BBS' in the area had to offer. I was still
unable to get callers to share expenses through cash donations and had
to quit after seventeen years.
It has always seemed odd to me that users would spend from $1500
to $2000 for a computer but were unwilling to make even a $5 or $10
donation to a BBS. New and free boards keep cropping up but most last a
short while and die.
The ultimate insult was an article in the Anniston Star about BBS' that
covered three relatively new boards and did not even mention mine when
mine was the first BBS in Alabama and the 9th or 10th in the USA.
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