Back in the day I was a Bulletin Board System (BBS) kid. It all started with a 386SX Packard Bell computer, an external 5200 baud modem and a telephone number. BBS was the thing to do before the internet exploded into the scene. I remember asking my dad, now retired, where we got our modems. He told me that he would ‘borrow’ them from his work . Then, I would ask him why they would come in his lunch box and since then I never had an answer. Despite that mystery, I was in for a treat. In those days, the BBS was simply someone’s computer left on all day in someone’s garage or room where someone would call that computer via telephone number and browse through it using keyboard commands while viewing ANSI graphics. The process was similar to visiting a regular website except that you’d have to call. It was archaic but satisfying for some of the computer geeks that were tired of paying ridiculous subscription costs from Prodigy and Compuserve. I was unaware of how they worked or how they were created. All I cared about was the shareware and the ‘free’ games. It was the underground thing to do at the time while everyone else was busy playing Mindsweeper or Solitaire. I remember tying up the telephone line for hours during evenings to download shareware games from Apogee and Epic Games. I remember being pissed off whenever my sibs or parents would pick up the phone during a five hour download.
Whenever I visited a BBS, I would check out the sponsors or referrers which led to more numbers to call. I remember visiting boards such as The K.O.R. Connection or Power BBS which was based in Vallejo, California (San Francisco Bay Area). I even called some long distance BBS numbers in many parts of the United States and ran my parents telephone bill.
Aside from playing old favorites like Commander Keen and Duke Nukem (the original 2D version not 3D), I was also interested in becoming a SySOp – A system operator for a bulletin board. I wanted to create a BBS that people would spend time out of their busy day. I wanted my own dedicated telephone line. I remember my ridiculous idea of wanting several telephone lines for BBS callers so that several people can call without having to wait for another person to hangup. I also remember having a software called Wildcat! BBS which would allow me to create my own board. The whole idea was to have a board that would contain some fictional or non-fictional stories, game reviews and a bunch of tutorials on how to speed up your computer or make MS-DOS batch files. It was an ambitious idea. I even had a friend who had a BBS called Treasure Island which I called often but I was unaware that he was the sysOp. Needless to say, we’re still friends till this day.
Several dotcom startups later with some consulting and contracted programming for the last couple of years, I am now doing exactly what I wanted to do at LazyTechGuys.
Nowadays, there’s alot of stuff this generation of computer users take for granted. Google on smartphones takes away the trivia answers at a bar. Torrents are sharing HD video. Games are now a click away as opposed to several commands at the DOS prompt. I was fond of those days. And even though the internet has changed the face of technology and swept the BBS in one short stroke, what we are experiencing right now is still very young and continues to change not only the way we communicate but our day-to-day lives.
ANSI Gallery and old modems I actually owned