If you’re a regular to Al’s Geek Lab, you’ll know I’m a big fan of the thing that came before the web: Bulletin Board Systems, commonly abbreviated to BBS.
I even made a documentary series on them, called ‘Back To The BBS’, which covers the resurgence of the BBS in the 2020’s. You can see that series over on YouTube.
Whilst I was making the documentary, I got so invested in it all, I decided it would be fun to create my own BBS. So I did. I wanted it to be complimentary to my YouTube channel’s viewers, user friendly (beginner focused) and offer cool message bases, file stores, games and extra mods. I think I succeeded! To connect to it, I recommend using a proper BBS Telnet client, for example SynchTerm or NetRunner.
telnet: bbs.alsgeeklab.com:2323 (or SSH at bbs.alsgeeklab.com:2222).
Press the 'Connect' button in the above window to connect to the BBS in your web browser, however I highly recommend that you use the freely available SyncTerm or Netrunner clients (see below for links).
Below text shamelessly stolen from StackFault of The Bottomless Abyss (bbs.bottomlessabyss.net). Thanks SF (I couldn't have written it better myself!)
What is a BBS?
BBS is the abbreviation of Bulletin Board System. These systems are the ancestors of the Internet as we know it today. They were the only way for users to connect and communicate in the 80s and 90s.
BBSes offers things very similar to some other modern systems (messaging networks, online chat, files, games, etc) but requires almost no resources to use. You could connect to a BBS using an old VIC-20 and enjoy it as much as the latest AlienWare laptop user. BBS most characteristic features are the beautiful ANSI arts and the limited 80x25 character screen space.
Why use a BBS when there is Facebook, Instagram and Twitter?
There is still thousands of BBSes online around the world. Most have migrated from phone lines to Telnet/SSH but the essence remains the same. Most BBS traffic flies under the radar of Google and such since they cannot index it at all. We could almost consider BBS traffic as dark nets in that matter. However, most users uses them for nostalgia purposes, it reminds them of the early days and allows them to share common interests.
There is also a very tight community inside a BBS and it's messaging networks. People helps themselves and if you post a question about a topic, be sure to get multiple people jumping in to help. For those into Retro-Gaming, doors are absolutely a great part of the gaming history to discover.
How to connect to the BBS?
Even if BBSes can be used with a regular Telnet or SSH client, it is HIGHLY recommended to use a BBS client to fully enjoy the BBS experience. Character sets have evolved since the 80s and the ANSI colors are not always rendered correctly in modern Telnet/SSH clients.
Using a software like SyncTerm or NetRunner will ensure you have the best BBS experience. SyncTerm is the recommended choice due to it's support for SSH, which ensures your data is encrypted end-to-end. Telnet should be avoided but is often used as an introductory method, SSH requiring to have an account already setup.
To use SSH, connect initially using NEW as username and password in your SSH client to connect. You can then use your account credentials to bypass the login screen and go straight to the BBS.
Is a BBS mobile friendly? Use of mobile devices is strongly discouraged to fully appreciate the BBS experience. Using a real laptop or desktop is the way to go.
What about privacy? We do not require any personal information to register an account. You can choose to provide your real name (required to post on some messaging networks) but this is absolutely optional.
The only information we suggest you provide is a valid email address (if you ever need password recovery). You can decide to log-on invisibly once validated so that nobody knows you were there.
BBS glossary and common terms definitions
|SysOp||System Operator; This is the person running the BBS, performing support and keeping everything running smoothly.|
|BBS||Bulletin Board System; This is an electronic system, composed of different services like messages, games and files.|
|Netmail||This is a type of message where a BBS connected to a network can send a direct message to an individual located on another BBS part of the same network. This message is considered mostly private since only the SysOps could read it.|
|Echomail||This is a type of message where a BBS connected to a network can send a message that can be read by every users subscribed to the same message area on the network. This message is considered public and anyone can read it.|
|Nodelist||This is a list of all the nodes within a specific network. It contains the required information so that each BBSes can reach each others for transferring messages.|
|Door||A door is a program, external to the BBS software, that can be executed to provide content to the BBS user, this can be games or service applications.|
|FTN||FidoNet Technology Network; This is the type of network used by FTN compatible networks. The addressing scheme used is AA:BB/CC.D, where A is the Region, B is the Zone, C is the Node and D is the Point. This is required for Netmail but for Echomail this is taken care of automatically by the BBS routing.|