Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Peek At The Past: BBS's

Here's a peek into the past. This is sometime in the mid-1980's during the BBS (Bulletin Board System) days in the Twin Cities. Our family lived in Apple Valley, Minnesota (Isn't that a great name?). The character in the background is me and the young fellow in the foreground is my oldest son Ray who is sitting at an Apple ][ + working a BBS.
A BBS, for those not in the know, was a telephone based computer system that you could call and communicate with. It was a little like a Yahoo Group is today or a blog or even a website. They were also sometimes called message boards since mostly people signed on and read messages and left messages. It was great fun.
My BBS was called "Terminal Station" and it ran on some CPM software called "Citadel" and the metaphor was a set of rooms you could go to and leave messages. Each room was a topic and so many different conversations could be going on at the same time. Frankly I think Yahoo Groups could learn something about organizing a message board from some of those early systems.
The Apple ][+ had some Applesoft software that implemented a message board and my son Ray was working on that software to optimize it for a BBS he was running. Since we only had two phone lines and we reserved one for old fashioned things like telephone calls, Ray and I shared the other line. This no doubt confused some of our callers since when you called the number you were not really sure if you would get Terminal Station or Ray's BBS whose name he'd have to refresh me on. It was all great fun. Of course it was single threaded. Only one person could be on-line with the system at a time.
I had a friend who was running a bunch of modems and his system which was a multi-threaded form of the Citadel software would run as many as I think 20 users at a time. That was a big improvement of course over just a single line. The Internet has long since replaced all of that early activity.
The picture is from a story that ran in the local newspaper. Just a little trivia from the early days of personal computers. Nostalgia anyone?

No comments: