The Thunderbolt -- What Is A BBS??

The Thunderbolt -- What Is A BBS??

Contents
A BBS Overview
Messages
Files
Chat
Email
Telnet and FTP
Faxing
Games
Conclusion
Computer Foul Up

FTelnet Login

Note: If the FTelnet connection doesn't respond, the BBS is down for thunderstorms, maintenence, or other issues.

For central Arkansas weather information, click here.


A BBS Overview


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What is a BBS?? Besides an acronym for ''bulletin board system'', it's basically ''a small version'' of your Internet Service Provider. And, this is what you can find...''The Hidden Treasures Of BBS's'' -- what I call ''a safe alternative to the Internet''. Thanks to Robert Short for this information.


There's a dimension to cyberspace that they don't mention at the computer store, one that can provide many of the same features as the Internet and some that it doesn't. This alternative is the ''Bulletin Board System'' (BBS), an online service offering a wide variety of online games, files, one-on-one chat, message areas, private mail, and participatory forums.

All this can be found at many BBS's via the Dial-Up And Telnet BBS List. You can access them via a telnet client, or via your web browser, if the BBS has such.

There are many different styles of Bulletin Board Systems; each BBS is customized in form and appearance by its system operator, the person known as the SysOp. Boards range in size from those operating over a single telephone line from a home PC, to full-featured, multi-line systems run on a local area network (LAN). Their look and feel can range from straight black-and-white text to 256-color SVGA graphics.

Many BBS's charge you nothing to call and offer 30 to 60 minutes access or more per day, while others might charge a nominal subscription fee to access the more popular features like multi-user chat or CD-ROM files areas, or to allow you more daily online time. Still others might offer full-fledged (and fee-based) Internet access in addition to their standard BBS services.

The majority of these boards are operated by computer hobbyists who put their time, money and equipment at the disposal of the community simply for the joy of doing so. Quite often, the SysOp will run his or her BBS to promote a special area of interest, while others have a more general appeal.

One of the most enticing aspects of BBS's is the personal attention many SysOps give to their callers. Some even go out of the way to help their users with software and hardware problems, making them a valuable resource for technical assistance and advice.

Opening an account is as easy as logging on, and answering a few simple questions. Most fee-based BBS's offer a free trial period to give you a feel for the system before subscribing. Free boards often have a Call Back or Telnet Email Verifier, which calls your computer to check your phone number, or sends you a special code via email. You have your computer answer the Call Back Verifier, or enter the code in the Telnet Email Verifier...and your account is automatically validated, and upgraded.

Once a member, you will become part of a family of users who consider their favorite BBS a place to meet, play, share programs and ideas, and an indispensable resource for sending messages across town, or around the world. At your BBS, you can truly enjoy a sense of closeness and community. SysOps often host gatherings where members can meet one another.

As mentioned above, there can be many activities available on BBS's that inform and inspire, entertain and enhance. Offering a relatively safe alternative to some areas of the Internet, BBS SysOps usually require phone number verification, real names for the user records (though aliases might also be allowed) and, where access to adult material is available, proof of age and sex. These requirements seek to guarantee a comfortable environment for both men and women, children and adults. It is not uncommon to see users ages 8 to 80.

For a poem on ''The Sysop Of A BBS'', click here.

Below are the features found at many BBS's...you're bound to find something enlightening on your very first call.

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Messages


This was the main feature when BBS's appeared some 30 years ago, hence the name Bulletin Board System. In message areas, you can easily place or read an advertisement or announcement, post a question or answer, or browse through hundreds of specialized subject areas for interesting information. If your BBS is connected to a network of systems such as The Worldwide FIDONet BBS Network, most messages will be ''echoed'' around the globe to some 5,000 other BBS's which pass messages and files via telephone line, satellite and the Internet. If you have problems with hardware or software, you'll find that many computer companies and programmers visit these message areas to answer questions and offer support. There are currently many FidoNet echoes (topic areas) that cover a wide variety of subjects.

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Files


The local BBS is a great place to download the latest shareware, freeware, and public domain software. You will often have download privileges on your first call, and the compressed files you download are easily uncompressed with a variety of freeware or shareware programs, such as WinZip. If your primary connection to the Internet is via modem, you're in for a couple of pleasant surprises. First, file transfers from a BBS typically proceed more quickly than modem-based FTP (file transfer protocol) downloads from the Internet, because you're not sharing the data line between you and the file source with anyone else. Or, maybe you've had a multi-megabyte transfer interrupted toward the end of the download. With FTP, all you can do is start over again. BBS's, on the other hand, usually support download protocols that allow you to pick up where you left off; without having to re-download what's already on your system. If your connection is via telnet, the speed will be pretty much the same...although it'll depend on overall internet usage, etc.

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Chat


Multi-line BBS's may offer user chat, or even ''forums'' where any number of people can gather to discuss common issues. Once online, you can usually see a list of users who are also online and page someone for one-on-one chat, or invite them into a private chat room. This feature can really help to instill a sense of ''family'' and belonging. Even if it's a single line BBS, you can ''page'' the Sysop for chat, and if he or she is available, they'll chat with you in ''real time''.

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Email


Where some smaller systems may have private e-mail strictly between users on that BBS, others might have mail across their network (NetMail), or even give you an Internet e-mail address. The SysOp may allow file attachments, enabling you to mail a favorite shareware game to a friend just like over the Internet. Be careful how you use the email, though...if you're caught sending spam or other ''inappropriate material'', your BBS privileges could be REVOKED!!

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Telnet and FTP


If you join a board with multiple lines, and an Internet connection...depending on the BBS software, you may have the ability to call out to other BBS's. This allows you to log on to another telnet-capable BBS, anywhere in the world, with no long-distance phone charges. A multi-line BBS can also utilize open lines to access FTP sites, where you can obtain files that might not otherwise be available locally. Coupled with the home system's file bases, this creates an enormous resource for finding an unlimited variety of programs.

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Faxing


Some systems have online fax capabilities that allow you to send a fax via the Internet, eliminating long-distance charges. This is usually as secure as sending e-mail. Check with the Sysop to see if this feature is available.

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Games


Last, but not least, are the ever-popular door games. Everything from Acey Deucy to Zombi Slots can be played on a BBS. There are card, dice, board, word search, adventure, mind, educational, information, trivia, and role-playing games...among others. You play these games while online against a computer opponent or another caller. If your BBS has more that one line, you can play many of these head-to-head against another person online, such as Trade Wars Gold, Legend Of The Red Dragon, L.O.R.D. II, or the Shining Star Software doors, such as Phantom Of The Catacombs, The County Fair, Punchline, Spiked, Don't Wake The Sysop, Trekkie Tags, Leviathan's Reef, Doctor Dread, and Moonchat, among others. Some BBS's also support InterBBS competition, such as the one with Al Lawrence's Sunrise Doors; where you compete against other landline and telnet BBS's...as well as with ''home users''...in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere around the world (a yearly participation fee is required with the Sunrise Doors InterBBS competition). There are also many information doors such as skiing and road conditions, electronic magazines, stock quotes, weather, amateur radio, horoscope, and matchmakers.

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Conclusion


So, whether you are a kid stuck indoors on a rainy day, a mother with time between laundry loads, on lunch break at the office, disabled or retired, you are sure to get your fill of whatever sparks your interest at many of the locally run BBS's. Why not strike up your modem or telnet client, and discover a whole new cyber-world right in your own back yard?

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