Sunrise Door and Home Software Saturday August 19, 2017





BBS-RELATED ARTICLES

I am sure that if you are running a BBS or are curious as to what a BBS is, you will find the following articles to be of interest. If you are a BBS Sysop, you are encouraged to capture any of the following articles and post them on your BBS/WEB site and to distribute them to other BBS sites you encounter. If you are not a Sysop and have come here out of curiosity, you are encouraged to share these articles with others and to be sure to support a BBS in your locality, by paying them an online visit!

If you have any other articles that you would like to share with the rest of the BBS community, send it to us attached to an EMAIL message and we will be more than happy to add it to this page for others to take advantage of.


greenbal.gif (204 bytes) What is a BBS? (Version 1)

greenbal.gif (204 bytes) What is a BBS? (Version 2)



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What is a Bulletin Board System? (Version 1)

A Bulletin Board System is an Online Service that allows callers to send and receive private E-Mail, read and post messages under topic forums, upload and download files, find tech support, have live "chat" conversations with other callers (public and private), play online games, and much more. It is NOT the Internet. For example, America Online and CompuServe are just BIG Bulletin Boards! What makes a local BBS special, is the system speed, personal service, the support, and the members. Click for more information.

People tend to get to know one another on a local service. And they even develop relationships! And keep in mind - these are people in YOUR AREA - not someone from halfway around the globe!

Believe it or not - the Internet DOES NOT HAVE EVERYTHING!

Local Services also cost far less, are MUCH FASTER, and usually much easier to use than a big online service or the Internet.

The Internet has it's purposes, but comparing it to a BBS is like comparing apples and oranges! Think of it this way - where would you rather hang out to relax - at the Club (A BBS) or at an overcrowded mall (The Internet)?

Also - a local online service can be customized to the callers' needs. It adjusts to the members wants and desires, where as the Internet is merely content, and impersonal !
In short, BBSes are what the Sysop (System Operator) and the callers make it. So....If there are things you would like to see here, drop the Sysop a note!

What is a Bulletin Board System? (Version 2)

If you mention to a friend, who is not into computers, that you call around to Bulletin Board Systems, you will probably get a blank stare in return. If that same friend looks to their dictionary to find out what a BBS or Bulletin Board System is, their search will come up empty. So, just what is a BBS?

An Electronic Bulletin Board System is simply a computer hooked up to phone lines. People may call the computer if their own computer has a modem and communications software. A modem is a device which allows computers to talk to each other over the telephone lines. The right communications software can make the job of connecting to a BBS quite simple.

Once one calls a BBS, a whole new world of information, services and fun opens up. Bulletin Boards are one of the best places to get the latest in software for your PC, most of the time before you can get the programs through software vendors. Callers can also leave messages to people who call the board or discuss issues with computer users all over the world. Many BBSes have games which you can play, usually against or with other callers.

Some boards offer unique services which cannot be obtained anywhere else. Bulletin Board Systems vary greatly, from the small hobbyist to the big software companies support boards, each BBS has it own feel and selection of features. Most of the boards which users access are set up by hobbyists for their own enjoyment. The system operator (Sysop for short) tries to have all the information you will need to get started posted somewhere on the board, but most Sysops are more than happy to answer any questions callers might have.

Calling a BBS for the First Time

Long log-on questionnaires and call back verification may be the complaint of the veteran BBSer, but it can be a little confusing, especially for the new computer user. Bulletin Boards do have a habit of assuming the caller knows what to expect when calling.

Many first time BBS callers are calling on their first PC, and are using the inexpensive communications software which came with the computer. A friend has given them some BBS numbers, so they call. They see some commands they don't understand and a bunch of jumble which seems to make little sense.

The new caller never gave configuration of his computer and software for graphics a thought, and the software may not even support graphics to begin with. Many potential users never call back and rely on shareware vendors for Shareware. Using a decent communication software package can make bulletin boards a much friendlier place to visit.

Most of today's BBSes use ANSI or similar graphics. The graphics are not excessively attractive, but it does speed up the transmission speed. If you are calling with a slow speed modem, this can be compared to the Internet's slow-transmissions. ANSI is much faster. One of the first questions which many BBS software programs ask when calling is if you want graphics.

Unfortunately, some BBS software programs default into graphics and some have no way to exit the graphic mode. After you dial the BBS number, and settled the graphics question, you should be at the welcoming or logon screen. The first screen generally gives information about the board itself. BBS name, location, baud rates, available networks, or anything else the Sysop deems appropriate. Then you are generally asked to give your name. You should always use your real name when logging on to a bulletin board, even if the board does allow fictitious names (handles). The Sysop has the responsibility and right to know who is accessing his BBS. When you enter your name for the first time, the BBS software will ask if you have your name spelled correctly, or if you are a new user. After selecting new user another screen, or screens, appear with information which the Sysop wants first time callers to know. Normally, these screen contain things like welcoming comments, rules or where to find help. You will then be asked if you want to register with the BBS. If you answer yes, a questionnaire will follow. The new user questionnaires vary from board to board, but most ask for name, address and telephone number. From there it depends on how the Sysop has set up his BBS software. Some Sysops ask only a few pertinent questions, others have questionnaires which seem endless. Again, always use real and accurate information when answering the questions. The questions normally include a couple on setting up the BBS software for your use. Things like page length, transfer protocol, or hot keys. If you are not sure, use the recommended (default) settings. What is selected can be changed later. After filling out the questionnaires most boards give limited access to the BBS until the verification process is completed.

The verification process can take many forms. Some Sysops will take the time to call by voice each and every caller to their board. Other Sysops rely on the caller ID technology and some force new callers into a call back verification. In this day of caller ID, call-back verification seems like an awful lot of hassle to put the novice BBS caller through. What happens is the BBS will log you off and try to call back at the number you entered during the questionnaire. This way the Sysop knows that is a valid telephone number and that the information provided by the user is most likely accurate. The problem is that many first time callers have trouble setting up their modem to answer the phone and are still looking at the manual when the verification call comes. The call-back software has significantly improved, some can be activated from the keyboard. Call-back verification has become significantly outdated, Most boards will not use this complicated form of verification. Again, it is the Sysop's option which type of verification is used.
Please note that the most common (and simple) form of verification on a BBS today is for the new caller to write a short mail to the Sysop, by the next day, the Sysop should have read your mail and verified your questionnaire, giving you access to the rest of the BBS. On your first call to a BBS you will most likely have limited options. Some boards will not allow file transfers and others will not allow anything until the user is verified and upgraded. The Sysop only does this to protect himself, and his substantial investment. It is the Sysops option on how much the unverified user can do on his board.

The Main Menu

After logging-on, or filling out the new user questionnaire, most BBSes have other screens before you actually reach the main menu. Most bulletin boards have news updates. Also things like the caller's statistics or advertising screens may be displayed before reaching the main menu. All BBS software programs operate a little different, so you may have to go to sub-menus for some features. One software program may automatically take the user through the bulletin menu before reaching the main menu, another may have sub-menus for messages or files. In general, most software will take you through a few screens displaying information, and place you into the main menu.

BBSes almost always have a sub menu for bulletins, after all they are called bulletin boards. This is information which caller's can read on-line, and there are a limitless number of possible bulletins to select from. Most Sysops have the board rules, general information, and help for new users. Other popular bulletins are BBS listings, top scores for on-line games and newsletters. The bulletin menu is a good place for new users to spend some time, as many Sysops have informational bulletins on a variety of BBS related topics. However, it not uncommon for a BBS not to offer many bulletins, as things has changed since the first bulletin system.

Some BBSes have questionnaires or user polls which can be accessed through the main menu, however, it is not uncommon for a BBS not to offer any questionnaires. Sometimes these questionnaires are set up for fun, or maybe the Sysop would like some specific information from the users. Some typical examples would include questionnaires on what users like about BBSing or a poll on the next election. Support boards may have a questionnaire on their product, so feedback to specific questions can be received. If the BBS has subscription fees for membership, a questionnaire may be used for on-line credit card registration. However, most boards are free. Most systems allow callers to page the system operator for a chat. If you have questions the Sysop may be available to talk to you on-line. Most Sysops enjoy chatting with users, but it is considered good BBS etiquette not to ask questions which are answered fully elsewhere on the board. You have nothing to lose by paging, at worse the Sysop will not be available. The main menu normally offers some utility functions, so the settings you are using can be re-configured if required. Some boards have a command to list all the callers. All this leads to main reasons people call bulletin board systems in the first place.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of today's bulletin board callers are not interested in reading messages. They are more likely to be calling for files or to play on-line games. However, the callers who have been at this awhile can remember when BBSes offered little else, and they still maintain an attraction for reading messages. In the early days there was nothing called Shareware or the wide variety of game doors that are now available. Yes, the BBS pioneers  called primarily to talk to each other and to this day messages remain a major part of BBSing.

In the simplest form, a message is left on a bulletin board system so another caller may read it and reply. A private message is left for just one person and no one else can read it. It should be noted that you should never leave something in a message which you would be afraid to have someone else read, as there is no such thing as a truly private message. Sysops can read messages. Public messages are more fun, as everyone who accesses the system may read and maybe respond to the message. Some systems may have quite a few messages and some messages may have been left some time ago, leaving a sort of system history. In general, message bases are just there for people to talk to other people and have fun!

The problem with having numerous messages is that they may vary considerably as to topic, thus making the user have to wade through all the messages to find those which interest them. This is how the idea of conferences came into being. By having users enter messages in conferences, which pertain to a particular subject, all similar messages are grouped together. BBSes may have a "for sale" conference, "teen" conference or "sports" conference. This way the users know where to go for messages which interest them. The problem is that once the messages are separated into all the different conferences, there may be very few messages in each conference. This is what brought about the development of networks.

By linking computers together by networks, a message on one system is "echoed" to other systems. Bulletin boards may choose to have network conferences, which pertain to whatever subjects the Sysop feels the users will enjoy the most, so that messages originally left on more than one system may be read. This way the advantage of having specialized conferences is not hampered by having very few messages to read. Another advantage of networks is that a user can leave a message on their local BBS for someone in another area, and thus avoid the long-distance telephone charges. Some echo-mail networks are huge with thousands of systems all over the world. But to be a network all it really takes is two BBSes and many networks start out this way. Thousands of boards are calling each other, normally in the middle of the night, to transfer mail. Most boards are "nodes" which call the particular network "hub," so messages can be received from a common place. Larger networks may have "regional hubs" because the "network hub" could not handle all the systems calling each night. But despite that, many echo mail networks exist, for example, the world's largest hub today is Fidonet, reaches to Bulletin Boards internationally, some countries many people don't know even existed!

Files and Archives

The one thing which has caused bulletin boards to become popular are files, and there is no doubt that the majority of today's BBS users are more interested in files than any other features. What has caused the explosion in the number of available files on bulletin boards? The success of Shareware more than anything else. Yes, we all hate Shareware, but it was a truly unique marketing phenomenon. Shareware is a new concept to many in the computer world  who are used to buying software in a store, after just reading the packaging to decide which program to take a chance on. Shareware is a revolutionary new marketing concept which encourages people to "try before they buy" any software. If you like the program you are legally bound to pay a registration fee for continued use, if you don't like it just delete it and move on. If you are looking for a typing tutor program download half a dozen, then decide which you like best and register that program only. Try going into your local computer store and buying a bunch of programs to "try before you buy," and returning all but the one you like. You will be laughed out of the store. Not only does Shareware allow it, but authors encourage you to give copies of their programs to your friends. And if all that is not enough, most Shareware registration fees are considerably cheaper than what the "shrink-wrap" software companies are asking for their products. And yes, the quality of Shareware rivals any other form of distribution. Why do software authors send out their programs all over the world for people to use free of charge? Because a growing percentage of people are supporting the Shareware marketing concept and sending in registration fees. Do to the success of Shareware, more and more authors are turning to distributing programs that way. This is the primary reason for the explosion in the number of files in the BBS world.

There are also Public Domain or Freeware programs which the users are not expected to pay anything at all for. These programs may include small utility programs, informational text files or maybe something the program's author would just like to get some feedback on. There are indeed hundreds of thousands of different files available on boards through out the county.

Yet another example, would be "beta" software. The author distributes it, usually free of charge so the software users will report bugs or suggestions for it.

The majority of the files found on bulletin boards are in the archive format, which always gives the novice BBS user problems with the first few downloads. Most people log on a board and download some great sounding program and cannot figure out how to get it to work. This leads to more calls to the boards, reading bulletins or paging Sysops, in an attempt to find out how to use this file they cannot wait to try. Since most bulletin boards use files with a .ZIP extension, callers learn quickly about file compression. Why are almost all files on bulletins found in the archive format? There are basically two reasons. One reason is to compress the file's size, thus reducing the amount of time it takes to transfer the file via the modem connection. The other reason is to group all the files necessary to operate the program under a single name, so the caller does not have to download a bunch of different files to get one program to run. The .ZIP format archive is by far the most common in the BBS world, but there are others. Most users quickly download the correct archive utility file, read the documentation included with the archive and are on their way.

File Transfers and Protocols

The act of receiving a file from another computer through a modem connection is what is known as downloading. The modem actually makes it possible for two computers to exchange information over a system of wires which was originally designed for voice. Sending a file to another computer is called uploading. Even the most novice BBS user has most likely heard those terms. However, it is never an easy question to answer when asked "how do I download?" This is not to insinuate that the act of downloading is that complex of a maneuver, but that there are so many different bulletin board and communications software combinations available. Each bulletin board software has its unique menus and series of commands to prepare the board for downloading. The other side is that each communications software also has its own unique series of commands to prepare for receiving the file.

When considering your settings, always make sure your file transfer protocol matches what the bulletin board will be sending the file with. Most boards offer a selection of file transfer protocols which the caller can select from, as do most communications programs. Here is a brief introduction to the more common transfer protocols. Most bulletin boards will recommend the use of Zmodem. It is very fast and is included with most communications software, and will usually activate itself just by selecting it on the BBS.

All About Doors

When someone calls a BBS for the first time, there is a very good chance they have never heard the term "door" as it relates to bulletin boards. The explanation of what a door is, however, is really quite simple. There are a variety of doors on the market which have become quite popular.

Game doors have been immensely popular in the on-line community. The variety of game doors available is huge with new ones coming out all the time. The basic game door allows the player to play a game and post a score for other callers to try to beat. There are also game doors which have an interactive feel by having players taking turns in a more complex game, however, turns are still taken one at a time. If a BBS has more than one phone line it could offer game doors where callers can truly play a one-on-one game in real time. As with everything else in the computer world, the quality of these doors has improved dramatically over the last few years. Games are not the only type of program which a bulletin board may use doors to access. Mail doors are found on a large percent of BBSes, especially if echo-mail is offered. One nice feature of a mail door is it allows users to download new messages and read them off-line, thus, cutting down on the time of the call itself. There are BBS lists, mailing lists and other utility type programs which have been designed to be used as a door. Some BBS software programs allow the Sysop to operate almost any program as a door, so the possibilities are endless.

Chatting and Paging

One thing that happens on bulletins is the opportunity to "talk" with people live on-line. There are various ways which you may type back and forth with another bulletin board user. Just about every BBS software package on the market allows for talking with the Sysop which is better known as paging, or if the Sysop initiates the talk the Sysop Chat. Boards with more than one phone line have the option of having chats with several users at one time.

There are many utilities and doors available to enhance chatting, so this more interactive aspect of bulletin boards can have a different feel on different boards. Talking in a live, real time mode is something that is quite popular on some boards. These chats resemble Internet relay chat (IRC), but usually have less people, making the chat more directive and personal.

Final Thoughts

Just a few final thoughts on bulletin boards. Only a very small percentage of the population knows much about this estimated one billion dollar industry. However, bulletin boards have really grown up since the early days. Back when this all started it was just a few programmers, maybe tying together various utilities to make the thing workable. The systems at the time where unstable compared to the software which has developed through the years. In the past things like "BBS etiquette" seemed to be a really important topic. If someone hung up on the board, without following the proper log-off procedures, it could lock up or possibly even damage the system. Dropping carrier (or hanging up) has little effect on most bulletin boards today, but is still considered rude. Bulletin boards seem to have fewer rules today than in the past. When was the last time you read the old "remember, you are calling someone's home" rule? It has been estimated that there are almost 500,000 bulletin boards nationwide, Certainly every board needs some very explicit rules which must be followed, for example, no posting of pirated software. I am not advocating that users abuse a system, more that I think the changes can only help the BBS world become more accessible to more people.