February 22, 2010
Try calling a bulletin board – here’s how.
I feel like my BBS series should include information on how to access a BBS. Much of what I have written so far is aimed at people who do know how, but who I am trying to encourage to do so. That is, people who used to do it, but have forgotten or didn’t realize that the scene was still alive. There are many people who have vintage computers who are not using bulletin boards and whom I would encourage to add BBSing to their vintage experience.
Still, somebody who doesn’t know how to connect to a BBS might come along, so I will give some basic information with a few links for the details. If you’ve never done it, it’s easy.
The first thing to know is that there are two basic methods of connecting. Using dialup, or using the internet. Most people will use the internet and it is easer. For completeness I will give a rough description of dialup first, but unless you are really determined to try a retro experience, this is probably not for you.
In the “old days” of BBSing we all used a modem. Some people still do that for dialup internet and the same modem can be used here. What is needed is a piece of software called a communications program. There are many choices and they all work. Type in the number and it will dial the BBS and you will be presented with a login screen. If you want to go this route you probably know a bit about it already. If you don’t then I suggest you do a net search for “communications program“. Then append the name of a classic like “procomm” or “telix“. I use a program called LYNX, but that is probably not easy to find nowadays. These are for DOS but will work in MS-Windows as well. Windows will have others available as well and older versions will have one built in. Linux users can easily find a suitable program with their package manager.
Nowadays most bulletin boards are not dialup any more, although there are a few (usually older ones) which maintain that option. It is simply easier to use TELNET. This is an internet protocol which is available on all computers. In fact most have a telnet client built in already. Linux and other *nix systems, as well as MS-Windows 2000, XP and earlier versions have it right on the command line. You don’t have to do anything except use it. Vista and Windows-7 will need setup, but since you pay for those, the vendor will have help available, either on-line or through your usual support source. I haven’t tried it but mTelnet comes highly recommended, and for almost all operating systems, including Mac, SyncTerm is apparently excellent. If you are using DOS I recommend using Mike Brutman’s mTCP Telnet which, along with all the information you need to set up DOS networking, is available on his website. Note that this software will run on even the oldest PC. This is my own telnet client of choice.
So now what? Well, if you are using dialup, you start the communications program and dial the number of the BBS. The rest will be presented to you there. Sounds simple – it is. For telnet, you type “telnet boardaddress” on the command line. If you are using a GUI program, then you don’t type telnet, but rather put the address (eg. bbs.dmine.net) in the appropriate place there. Note that almost all boards use port number 23 and the software will take this for granted so you don’t have to think about it. A very few boards use a different port and you will have to type this after the above line, leaving a space in between.
So, in the end all you need is a telnet program, and if you have Linux or XP or older, you are good to go and can simply type one of the following lines to try out a BBS.
Both of those have a guest login so you can see how it works without having to sign up. The previous two blog entries have many more boards which you can use. Anyway, there you have the basics of how to use bulletin boards. There is much more to know, but all you really need to get started is to connect. If you’re still confused, I’ve given you enough catch words that a simple net search will show you the rest.
Like I’ve said in previous posts, this is a fun thing to do. Those who remember will have a great time reminiscing, and younger folks will see what their parents did before the internet became ubiquitous. §