The TEXTFILES.COM Historical BBS List:
An introduction by Jason Scott
As the age of the Dial-Up BBS draws to a close, I thought it necessary
to ensure a way to keep some understanding of the role of BBSes in the
growth of the Internet. More importantly, I thought it might be fun to
collect the phone numbers of every known dial-up BBS and find a way to
enshrine them in one easy-to-browse list. This way, people could look
back at the area codes and exchanges of their youth and remember all
these electronic places, these meeting houses and hangouts that formed
a part of so many people's youth.
A Very Short History
The first modem for microcomputers was invented by Dennis Hayes in
1977. This device (short for MOdulator-DEModulator) allowed two
computers to connect to each other over the existing telephone
network. Previously, dedicated phone lines were used between permanent
computer installations. He soon founded D. C. Hayes Associates, later
Hayes Corporation, which was a leader in PC Modems for most of the
While the idea of being able to use the existing phone network for
computer communication was still new (and gaining interest by
hobbyists and others to transfer information) it was two people, Ward
Christensen and Randy Suess, who created the first "Bulletin Board
System" and put it online in February, 1978.
The concept behind "Ward and Randy's CBBS" was to provide a way for
others to dial into their computer, and leave messages for other
users. They described it as a natural extension of an actual physical
Bulletin Board they were using for their local computer club. They
published an article in Byte Magazine describing their software, and
the era of the Dial-Up BBS had begun.
There are many histories of the BBS and I hope to write a comprehensive
one myself at some point in the future, but a number of links are
provided below for you to research by yourself.
The BBS List
As more and more people purchased modems to go with their home
computers and wanted to sign up with all these "BBSes" they'd been
hearing about, a fundamental problem presented itself: How to find out
what the numbers of the BBSes were. Since anyone could set up a BBS
(if they had an extra phone line or were willing to give up human
calls) the issue was more one of publicity than opportunity. Word-of-
mouth was effective, with BBS numbers showing up at computer club
meetings and passed around schools. Some people advertised on other
BBSes, so that if you got one phone number to a BBS, you would soon
know others. Eventually, however, some folks took it upon themselves
to maintain BBS Lists, where they would keep track of all the BBSes of
a given subject matter or type, or even an area code, and others would
let them know if they had put up a new BBS. Over time, these BBS lists
could be found everywhere, and gave people an easy way to know what
numbers to call to log on.
This was the age of the BBS List; you would download the month's list
to see what new places there were to call. If a site didn't get on
enough BBSes, they wouldn't get enough calls, and would eventually
close down. Of course, the administrators of these lists had policies
of who they would let on, focusing on one kind of computer hardware,
or location, or what the subject matter of the BBS was. Some also
refused to list "underground" BBSes, making them even more
"underground" than they might have been.
An Idea Is Hatched
While doing work on textfiles.com, I started to think about the many
thousands of BBSes that had come and gone, and the effect they'd had
on myself and many others. I remembered the days when I would go up
and down BBS lists calling every last board seeing what was new or
what was being offered, ignoring what the board called itself or what
others claimed it did or didn't have, wanting to see for myself. I
remember running into boards with brilliance behind the wheel and
BBSes that had been left to die and were inhabited by a bunch of
squatters and power players. Many of these places are lost in my
memory, but seeing their names or numbers brings it all back.
I figured that since TEXTFILES.COM had all these BBS Lists from that
period of time, I might consider compiling a list. Several bourne and
Perl scripts later, the list is now up into the many thousands
(although always in need of pruning and verification) and the project
is well underway.
The way I see this project is as a lark, and a fun thing to do in my
spare time. I will work to always make my efforts reproducible, and
the data files that are generated by my scripts will hopefully come of
use to people in other projects, related or not. I would hope that
some people will browse these lists and really enjoy looking back at
their favorite area codes, and remember that part of their lives.
So welcome to the world's largest BBS list. I hope you enjoy browsing
it as much as I did compiling it.
Information was taken from the following sources:
Ideafinder: The PC Modem
http://www.jps.net/foxnhare/cbbs.html (link dead) Interview with Ward
Christensen and Randy Seuss
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: These two articles, on Dennis Hayes and
the 'Era of BBS-ing' are going to go in my newly revised web site
http://history-internet.org among the links for your review.
Regards very old BBS systems, I ran a couple of them during the early
1980's: I had Lakeshore Modem Magazine, a social issues BBS in
Rogers Park in Chicago, from 1981-85. I was also the volunteer 'Sysop'
(or System Operator) for the Chicago Public Library BBS in 1981-82 and
I worked with Jerry Ablan, a Chicago southwest side (Beverly) resident
with a discussion forum on his 'THINK! BBS' in 1982-83. The BBS was
named after the old IBM-slogan in those years, which was 'Think!', and
I began mousing around a lot on Usenet at more or less the same time.
My computer in those days was an Apple ][+, as was the one used at
the Library. Jerry Ablan had a Tandy Model 4 for his thing. Also, in
the middle 1980's I worked with a guy in Oak Park, Illinois who was
maintaining a FIDO node on a Tandy 4. My first experience with (what
are called 'newsgroups' on Usenet), or 'echogroups' on FIDO came on
his node. 'Nodes' were the numerical assignments given to everyone who
maintained a FIDO system. I have thought some about expanding this
Digest as it stands today, through a 'gateway' to FIDO. PAT]