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Tiki Central Forums Beyond Tiki Any pre-web BBSers out there?
Any pre-web BBSers out there?
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 22, 2002
Posts: 3691
From: San Francisco
Posted: 2004-04-23 01:01 am   Permalink

Back in 1993, a new roommate introduced me into a wonderful, mysterious world -- the world of the local dial-up BBS.

Back then, in the free weekly local computer-user periodical, there was a long column of local phone numbers for computer Bulletin Board Systems. There were several dozen of them in Seattle, each of them run on a computer with its own bank of dedicated phone lines (remember, this is before the advent of the World Wide Web, it was not yet common to have a computer at home, much less have a dedicated phone line for it). The computers weren't connected to each other -- that technology existed in the Internet before it we got the graphic interface of the World Wide Web, but it was used mostly for universities & the government back then. A few people were dialing into Prodigy and the old pre-web AOL.

Imagine if to check Tiki Central, you had to have your computer (probably running DOS) dial this local phone number on a 1200 baud modem (2400 if you were lucky), and hope you didn't get a busy signal because all the phone lines were used up. Then, with an interface that was nothing but a command line taking simple one-character commands, you had to navigate through "rooms" (we call them Forums now), by typing "G" -- all you'd get was text feedback with the name of the room you'd just entered, and then you'd type "N" to start the process of slowly scrolling every new message past to read. No clicking, no pictures, no skimming past posts that don't interest you.

The other people posting on the boards were also all locals, and it was a pretty tight scene. Most people would post on a number of different BBSs, but I only posted on one run by a guy who went by the name Alpo, and looked not unlike the Fraggle Boober, right down to the hair & floppy hat:

There weren't very many people posting on Alpo's board, maybe 18 or 20, but that was enough for his to be one of the more popular boards back then. Eventually I started joining in when these guys were meeting up in local coffee shops, and then my dirty secret was out: I was a GIRL. There were maybe only three girls who were part of the whole Seattle BBS scene back then (one of them actually ran her own BBS, and it still runs today!). Back then, the types of people you'd meet from online were pretty serious computer geeks.

Quickly, these guys became a huge part of my life, they were my dearest friends, and I hung out with them pretty much every single night, in various 24-hour coffee shops. When we weren't hanging out, we were getting each other's busy signals as we competed for access to Alpo's phone line to post. Alpo and I in particular were very close, pretty much best buddies. The two of us would ride around in his junky car that had a goofy rigged up transmission, and required sometimes to be started with a hammer. I would pretend to flirt with him in an attempt to make him more attractive to the ladies; sometimes it worked, usually it didn't. We had some great adventures together.

Eventually, I got a boyfriend. This was ultimately what would end someone's presence on the BBS -- they would get a girlfriend and not be heard from, sometimes never again. The classic joke was really quite true. I would still run into them in coffee shops, but eventually I drifted away from the pack.

Fast forward 10+ years -- same old shit, different BBS. I wouldn't have it any other way.

So, tonight I was googling for my friend Alpo, to see what he's been up to. Turns out, on a whim, he just started up the old BBS. It runs pretty much the same, you can just telnet into it, same horrible interface, and a handful of the old guys are on there. Alpo has a wife & three kids now. I can't wait to hear all about it.

Did anyone else here spend time on a local dial-up BBS?


Critiki - Critiki News - Ooga-Mooga

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Feelin' Zombified
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 15, 2003
Posts: 1338
From: The Exotic Shores of Lake St. Clair
Posted: 2004-04-23 06:53 am   Permalink

In the early 80's, my best friend (who's now a Senior Programmer at Apple) would go on them all the time. One day he tried to show me what it was all about and we spent over three hours downloading one heavily pixelated, grainy, semi-risque pic. It was the most tedious and anti-climactic experience of my teen years.

Makes me appreciate my cable modem (and the point & click friendliness of Critiki for that matter)


Thank God The Tiki Bar Is Open
Thank God The Tiki Torch Still Shines...

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 03, 2002
Posts: 5304
From: Hapa Haole Hideaway, TN
Posted: 2004-04-23 06:57 am   Permalink

Oh yeah. We ran a BBS out of our house for a long while. We were the first in town to have a 9600 baud modem. But phone lines? No. Just one. You had your auto-dailer call all of the local BBSes and signal when it got connected. You also had a 30 minute time limit. So downloading the porn was near impossible!

Back then, we had monthly meetings where we traded software at the local city court building, held by a cop! Amiga baby!

What you left out, was the way it became national. Once a night, your BBS would call up another close by BBS and upload the new messages and download the new messages. This process swept across the country and over a while, you could communicate with people all over. But it was slow.

I met amny people then that I am still friends with. It was a cool thing. There are a few sites out there that have the old role calls. I went by Uncle Meat in those days and my job was to make trouble. I was a real ass on the BBS and kept the conversation going.

I recall around 1996, when I was in my last year as a Computer Science major in a networking class, full of seniors. The professor was telling us about the Internet and asked if any of us had been on it. One kid raised his hand and said he'd checked the weather. 1996, one guy in a class of 30-40 senior CS majors had used the Internet! That's a FAST change! Even the prof mainly used it to telnet.


Girl geeks rock!

"Mai-Kai: History & Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant" the book

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 22, 2002
Posts: 3691
From: San Francisco
Posted: 2004-04-23 08:19 am   Permalink

In 1996??? Wow, that's amazing. I had my first email address in 1994, by January of 1995 I was using the web pretty heavily (it only became legal to sell things over the web in April of that year). One guy in your CS class had used it a year later?? Wowie Zowie. Maybe they were all busy with MUDDs.

Alpo never connected his BBS up to a national network; his and the other BBSs that were popular in Seattle were all very incestually connected to the local scene we had going. Later on, another good friend of mine started a RIPterm primitive point & click BBS called King of the Cats that was popular enough that there were some people dialing in from all over the country, and he was uploading & downloading messages every night. He had a bank of nine phone lines! I loved that BBS, too, but it didn't have the same social impact that Alpo's did for me.


Critiki - Critiki News - Ooga-Mooga

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 15, 2003
Posts: 3006
From: San Diego, Ca.
Posted: 2004-04-23 08:36 am   Permalink

I started using BBSes in '95/'96 & used'em for a couple of years, even after I got Internet. There were about a dozen good BBSes here in San Diego (file & message boards, not porn & singles meet-up boaeds), & I got in trouble with my wife's boss for using her work phone to dial-up to some that were a local toll call away. I wasn't so bad that I was calling long distance looking for programs (remember old hackers & phreaks running scams to make money to pay their long distance bills?). I'd start by calling the ComputorEdge BBS & download the latest list of county-wide BBSes to see if anyone new had started up, then I'd check these & my favorites for new shareware & freeware, sometimes joining in on message boards on programming, beer or conspiracies. Usually I'd be busy hunting down & downloading files that I'd find on 1 BBS but not others so I could upload'em to get credit to download other files that I'd then upload to a 3rd...

I missed the whole DOS era working in other fields & avoiding computers (I'd worked on & studied computers & programming from '79 to '84, then spent nearly 10 years working with almost anything else), so I missed the true heydays of BBSes in the early '90s.

Rev. Dr. Frederick J. Freelance, Ph.D., D.F.S

[ This Message was edited by: freddiefreelance on 2004-04-23 08:38 ]

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Tiki Bird
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 25, 2003
Posts: 850
From: Cerritos, Ca.
Posted: 2004-04-23 09:37 am   Permalink

My friend & I both ran BBS in 85-87', the baud rate back then for us was 300! We were only 15 so it took awhile till we upgraded to a 600 baud modem!

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Unga Bunga
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 06, 2003
Posts: 5857
From: CaliTikifornia
Posted: 2004-04-23 10:13 am   Permalink

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 15, 2003
Posts: 3006
From: San Diego, Ca.
Posted: 2004-04-23 11:10 am   Permalink

Rev. Dr. Frederick J. Freelance, Ph.D., Th.D., D.F.S

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Futura Girl
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 01, 2002
Posts: 933
Posted: 2005-07-26 9:46 pm   Permalink

i was doing a searh for something else and hit this old post...
wasn't a frequent user but checked into the siggraph bbs.

And oh yeh - the olden golden days when compuserve was the insider geeks secret laire.

And who remembers Prodigy???

Your Ultra Style Guide for Modern Living!

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 27, 2002
Posts: 1323
From: D.C. / Virginia
Posted: 2005-07-26 10:17 pm   Permalink

I remember joining a BBS in 1988, but I only posted a couple of messages there. Nothing really happened. Once someone started replying to me, while I was on-line, and we traded a few comments to each other, so I guess I can say I did first chat back then.

I was a computer science major when the local community was made up of a roomful of comp sci students, all staying up late, typing their programs line by line into the keypunch machines, and then waiting for the computer operator, who was behind a window in another room, to read your deck of punch cards into the vacuum card reader. Then you had to wait for the program to actually run, and for the operator to fold your computer output and call your name -- only then could you pick up your printout to see if your program was successful. The scene was full of geeks way back then too.

I thought it was heaven when we finally got terminals, and you could type in your program, compile, execute, and then view your output in one sitting, with no operator interaction.


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 24, 2002
Posts: 1799
From: Ocean Beach, San Francisco
Posted: 2005-07-26 10:46 pm   Permalink

I've had a presence on the internet since 1989 (college).

Are there any other folks out there that were on NirvanaNet?


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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 1025
From: Redondo Beach
Posted: 2005-07-27 12:18 am   Permalink

Once upon a time I used to operate a BBS with a partner. It was originally called the Mastermind BBS, and later it became known as the Independent Filmmaker's Forum BBS. It operated from 1993 to 1998 and once ran out of the room I am sitting in right now. It was pretty cool when it was the IFF. Got me invited to a lot of interesting film screenings, openings, even the AFM in 1995. It's all gone now.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 07, 2005
Posts: 1566
From: Mass.
Posted: 2005-07-27 07:45 am   Permalink

The beauty of the BBS was you didn't even need a computer. I used an old DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) terminal and a 2400 BPS Racal Vadic modem to connect. I remember there was this thing called FIDOnet that BBSs has that was Internet-like if not actually Internet-based. It was a pretty fair approximation of forums like this one. That we were doing all this at work made it all seem not only not-lame but cool!
Ahhhh... Memories!

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 18, 2005
Posts: 452
From: RI
Posted: 2005-07-27 09:39 am   Permalink

I used to hit a couple of BBS's here in RI. One out of Cranston called Milliways and another called (I think) Prometheus. I lost many hours of my life playing Trade Wars:)

I also used to know the guy that maintained the ultimate RI BBS list - the RIBSS list.

We have come a LONG way since then!

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 20, 2003
Posts: 752
From: Central Coast of California
Posted: 2005-07-27 2:05 pm   Permalink

We had one in San Luis Obispo, ironically called SLONet.org It was the same as others, 30 minutes per user, hard as heck to ever jump in and get a line. They eventually expanded, upgraded and got the local public radio station involved. It then merged with them to become KCBX.net, which has since sold it to some place in Washington, but kept the name. To be honest, I liked them better when they were run by the community. Once the suits got involved, it became a money making site and the customer service went down the tube. One of the originators of SLONet took the time to teach me basic html and showed me how put my store online in 1997. I was doing mail order at the time and was terrified by the internet sales idea, but they convinced me it was the way to go. If it weren't for them and the community of people helping me out, I would be out of biz. Everyone worked together as volunteers and created workshops to show each other how we figured out different programs, some taught classes in Photoshop and other softwares all for free. After the big buy out, the internet division was "transferred" to Washington, they "laid off" the volunteers (if that is possible) and the spirit of the community died. Too bad those days are gone...

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