Introduction: Computer Time Travel: Using a BBS Over the Phone
Over thirty years ago, before the internet and before the first PC, something small started that would greatly effect the history of modern communications and computers. This was the Bulletin Board System, which over time would link together the world and lay the foundation for the way we use computers today.
Even though it's been over ten years since the decline of the BBS, there's still a small community of people who love to get out their old phone modems and dial in to the few remaining BBS's. And if you feel like taking a trip back to 1989, why not get out a modem too?
But before you begin, here's a few things to remember:
* Modems can be slow. Very slow. So if you're impatient, this probably isn't for you.
* There are much easier ways to do this, like using Telnet over the internet. But that's just not the same.
* Old technology doesn't always work with new technology. And if you're using Windows, you probably won't
have much luck with this if you're using anything newer than XP.
* This probably won't be very fun for you unless you're interested in older technology and computers.
That being said, lets get in our time machines and begin.
Step 1: What You'll Need
It doesn't take much to get this to work. But before you begin, you're going to need a few things.
What you'll need:
* A computer, preferably old
* A phone modem, either external or a softmodem (a PCI-card modem)
* A phone line
* Software, such as HyperTerminal (Comes with Windows XP and earlier)
* Some computer knowledge.
Even though there are many other things you could have for this, this instructable focuses on the most basic and easiest way to get yourself connected to a BBS over a phone line. Usually, I'd prefer using Linux and other programs for this. But to keep this simple, we're going to be using Windows XP and the HyperTerminal program. But if you want to do this with other software, it should be pretty easy to translate this.
Step 2: Setting Up
If you have all you need, then it's time to get started.
First, you need to get things set up. If you have a computer with a phone modem built in, or one with a PCI-card modem, then all you need to do is plug the modem into your phone line. And if you're using an older external modem, such as a serial modem, then follow the instructions that came with it and get it set up.
If you managed to get your modem connected and plug into a phone line, then you're already done with the hardware part of this.
Now all you have to do is start up HyperTerminal or the software you're using.
To start HyperTerminal in Windows XP, open the Start menu, and go to All Programs>Accessories>Communications and click on HyperTerminal. And that's it. Now all you have to do is set up a new connection.
When you start the program, a box should pop up that lets you set up a new connection. Enter a name for the connection ("Test Connection" or the name of the BBS) and click ok. Now enter the area code and phone number of the BBS, and click ok again.
After that, I usually click "Modify..." and change the settings for the number. This might be necessary for some modems, but it also just helps you connect faster.
Once you're in the Modify menu, uncheck the box that says Use Country/region code and area code. When you do this, only the Phone Number box should be available. Enter the BBS's number into this box, including the area code, and click ok.
Now all you have to do is press Dial, and you're on your way back to 1992. Once you hear modem noises, just sit and be patient. Eventually the BBS will appear in HyperTerminal.
Step 3: Now What?
If you've successfully connected to a BBS, you're probably wondering what to do. If you use to use BBS's, or you've used them with Telnet over the internet, then you probably don't need this section. Skip ahead for a list of phone numbers that lead you to BBS's.
Even though they're not as large, fancy, or as fast as modern websites, BBS's have hundreds of things that can keep you entertained for hours. Good ones usually have:
* Doors (Games you can play on the BBS)
* Text File Collections (Mostly old files about hacking, phreaking, and computer related things)
* ASCII/ANSI art collections
* Downloadable file collections (Games, pictures, files, and anything else that can be used on a computer)
On most BBS's, you're asked to make an account when you first connect. Usually you'll need to make an account to use things listed above, but that's not a problem at all. Accounts are usually free and fast to make, and usually give you a special Email address you can use for whatever you feel like. (Email on the BBS's works the same as internet email, because they're the same thing. You can email your BBS email address from Yahoo or Gmail.)
Some BBS's also use a precursor to modern email and internet communications, FidoNet. FidoNet probably won't be much use to most people just looking for fun, but you'll probably see a lot of it, and it's good to know what everything's talking about. Look in the next section for links about FidoNet.
Step 4: Links and Phone Numbers
Now that you've read through this instructable, you'll hopefully want to connect to a BBS. So here are a few phone numbers for my favorite BBS's, and also some links to lists of BBS's, plus things relating to them.
And also, thanks for reading through my instructable. Even though it's easy to connect to a BBS, and you could probably do it without reading how to, I thought it would be a good idea to write an insturctable on the subject. Not really to show you how to do it, but to bring it to your attention. BBS's and dial-up modems are a very important part of the history of computers and the internet, and in an age where we can touch a screen and be connected to the world, it's easy to forget where all of this came from. And if we forget about that section of history, it could easily be lost forever.
So, as the modern world looks away from this obsolete part of the past, why not take a minute to enjoy it before it's gone. Here are some numbers to help you keep the past alive for a little while longer.
Electronic Chicken - (416)273-7230
Idea Link - (301)949-5764
Mezzanine - (940)565-9165
Ye Olde Inn - (281)272-8162
Diamond Mine Online - BBS Resources - http://www.dmine.com/
FidoNet Wikipedia Article - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FidoNet
BBS Wikipedia Article - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulletin_board_system
And if that's not enough for you, why not start your own BBS?