Last week, I finally took the plunge into old-school computer usage by perusing various Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes) via Telnet. Always fascinated by the early days of “modern” computer usage, I wanted to experience the pre-internet digital community as best as I can in 2016, and since then, have been hunting around off and on for a BBS that would be perfect for me.
Previously, I had found The Void, which is a nice place with a cool Sysop. It’s a little complex, though, and while I like it, and still use it for FidoNet access, I know deep down it isn’t the BBS experience I am hunting for. At least, not a “home” experience, so to speak.
Think of it like social networks – you have that certain one you love to go to, and while you may have accounts on others, your main site will always be Facebook, or Twitter, or whatever. BBSes are like that – you might go to another one, but you always have that main one you keep up with. The Void is certainly my FidoNet home, where I can communicate with people on a broad BBS network, but for small, localized BBSes, I had nothing yet, until yesterday.
I was on Twitter, and saw that one of the people I follow had tweeted from a BBS! Someone had integrated their Bulletin Board System with Twitter. I had to check the board out, and I was immediately impressed. I had to go deeper.
That’s how I discovered Level 29 BBS.
Of course, sending a tweet from the BBS was mandatory. It helps that the sysop was running a contest for those who tweeted on that day, but I would have tried it out anyway just for the heck of it.
Past that though, what content was here? What were people talking about? What games were available? What other things could I do here?
The answers? Varying conversations and discussion, some of which look interesting enough , Quite a few games, including the absolute classic Trade Wars. While there weren’t too many additional things available, the fact remained that the Sysop has been integrating things in that no one would think to, such as twitter.
The crazy thing about this BBS? It was apparently running on an Apple ][ computer, at least up until a year ago.. Yes. Apple 2, for those of you confused by the ][ symbology. What is probably the original “personal computer” from way back in, I think, 1977…. and this BBS was until last year running on it. Phone line connections and everyone available, just like it was 1985 all over again.
As it stands now though, it’s a standard Synchronet package running on Linux now, but that doesn’t change the feel and usability of it.
This is what it’s about. That experience of doing something that was before your time. That feeling of the past coming, as best it can be, into the future. It isn’t even a thing of nostalgia, I wasn’t around for the BBS days. It really just is the experience, and the feel.
It’s the same reason you sometimes take the scenic route to work – the experience.
You can find me on Level 29 under the name “Xadara.” Stop by and play a game with me, will you?
June 2nd, 2016: Article updated to accurately reflect what the BBS is running on: Originally running on Apple 2, now on a Linux system.