Strategy & Tactics
November 3, 2009
Before the World Wide Web (WWW) came into its own in the latter 1990’s, the BBS or Bulletin Board System was the popular means of communicating by computer.
In fact, CompuServe started out as little more than a subscription BBS that I remember signing onto with a 300/1200 baud modem – that’s slow – and the service was priced by the speed used to access it. It was straight line text. When America Online came in with GeoWorks software, subscribers were given a graphic interface that was easy to use but soon replaced by HTML.
However, aside from a few big dial-up services such as CommpuServe and AOL, the country was linked by a network of individually operated BBS’s that for some was a way of life. They offered games, file downloads, and discussion boards that attracted users and kept hobby oriented sysops (system operators) happily occupied.
A few of these BBS’s had some national recognition, in other words, some people used them despite the high cost of long distance telephone service at the time. There were even one or two slick magazines devoted exclusively to the BBS and the sysops that ran them. Slick magazines meant the advertisers saw money, there. Yes, they were popular.
During the 1990’s, there were probably a couple dozen such BBS’s just in our local area. Nationwide, there were thousands. With the WWW taking hold in the latter 1990’s, the BBS’s began to fade away completely, or take to the Internet by way of Telnet. And today, there are only some 400 BBS’s left within the USA and Canada. These are Telnet BBS’s, accessed through the Internet. As for the old-style dial-up modem BBS, only 40 exist, virtually all accessible by Telnet as well.
Since everyone from Obama, to Rupert Murdock, to various federal agencies are talking about being able to close down the Internet or turn it into something that would prevent the free flow of information, bringing back the BBS is something some of us in the patriot movement should be working on as a back up system for disseminating information and providing support in the cause of liberty.
Because the dial-up Bulletin Board System relies on a network of private BBS’s, the only way to shut it down would be to eliminate land-line telephone service.
Anything that can be turned into a zip file can be transmitted by BBS. And such files spread quickly over the system for download and use nationwide. Sysops wanting to keep their boards and information fresh, insured this.
There was also Fidonet, a BBS message board system that loosely interconnected participating BBS’s and would spread information across the boards overnight.
Dial-up BBS’s ran on the simplest equipment, IBM PC’s or PC-XT’s, 286’s, 386’s and maybe a few 486’s near the end of their popularity. Most used only a single phone line, though some sysops would pay for two or more lines to increase capacity. But because there were so many BBS’s, a user could generally hook up with one whenever they wanted, and some would jump around from board to board. Fidonet helped keep the flow of information in sync.
You can find BBS software free online. We used Searchlight (SLBBS) and there is an archive of old SLBBS software available. If you happened to be involved as a sysop or even an active user and preferred another software, archives for Wildcat and others must be available, as well. You will need MS-DOS to run most of it, though some was being made for Windows 95, the last version of Windows before the Internet. A modem communications program such Ripterm or Qmodem (both handling RIP graphics for SLBBS) would also be needed. Callers would need such communication software, as well.
With the Internet in peril and the free flow of news and information in jeopardy, the old-style dial-up BBS would be the ideal way to decentralize the flow and take it out of the hands of the government/media cabal.
We should begin taking steps toward bringing back the dial-up (not Telnet Internet dependent) BBS right now, or at least being ready with the software (and, if necessary, possibly some antiquated computer equipment and operating systems) to quickly put the individual Bulletin Board Systems back into play.
It might not be as pretty as the web has become, but in time of need, would be very functional.