Legacies are a good thing. Everyone wants to leave a legacy… in the most basic form it’s being a parent to a child who will carry on a physical legacy. Almost everyone has a legacy, will have a legacy, or is someone else’s legacy. There are, of course, other folks with bigger legacies… the guy who found Canada (no idea who he was, but I’m sure someone in Canada remembers him (or her)), the guy who found electricity (don’t know his name either… I’m pretty bad with history).. the first guy on the moon, etc.
Well, tonight I was reminded of one of my legacies, and one I don’t think much of. I’ve had a computer since I was a kid… my first machine as an IBM PS/2… a whopping 16MHz, 80MB drive… yeah, some of you old timers had to deal with punch cards but you can’t steal the fact that I started off on a pretty tiny machine too (considering my daughter’s first machine was an iBook G3, I had it pretty rough). Well, I got my first modem, got on my first BBS, and was hooked. Within 6mos I had my own BBS. Ask my wife sometime how much grief my BBSing gave her when we started dating (I’m sure her loathing of computers originated there… no, the loathing is not the legacy I’m talking about here, but it is one).
Well, back in 1996 I started a fidonet-style network called Sysop’s TechNet. The point of the network was to discuss BBS’ing, to facilitate the expansion of new technologies being used in BBSing with the internet becoming more widely available and accessible, and the sticks in FidoNet were doing nothing but arguing. Actually, quite a few good ideas came out of STN and I think some of the proposals and work we had done is still being used today, like the reconstruction of the nodelist to accomodate internet/telnet boards. Anyways, I shut my board down in 2000 when I started working for (then) Mandrake.
Imagine my shock to realize that, even today, STN is still alive. Maybe not thriving like it was in the old days (but no BBS is, either), but it’s still alive, still moderately active, and still very much alive. Something I started almost 10 years ago still has my name attached to it.
Of course, this gets a guy thinking. I logged into my first BBS today in probably 4 years. And it felt good. =) I didn’t have any privileges to do much, but dangit… I was on a BBS. It was old-school. It felt damn good to be sitting there looking at ANSI art in all it’s hideous blocky glory. I remember the old groups… iCE, ACiD, and the others… man, those guys were amazing! The things they could do with colored blocks (digital lego?) was insane.
So now this has me thinking. And, unfortunately for me (once my wife finds out anyways), I’m actually thinking about setting up a BBS again. Unlike my old friend Kevin who sparked this with an email today, I’m not gonna setup an OS/2 box to run the old software. When I shut down my board, I was running BBBS which is perhaps the best BBS software out there and runs on DOS, OS/2, Windows, Linux (intel, SPARC, and alpha), and even FreeBSD. For kicks a few months ago I dusted off my old backup CD and threw it on a Mandriva box to see if it still worked. It did.
So now I’m looking at this backup CD again and am seriously contemplating building this thing up from scratch again. I did email the author of BBBS a few months ago to see if he’d release the source to BBBS… unfortunately, he said no. Too bad. I tried to encourage him to compile it for OS X… considering I haven’t heard from him, I suspect he hasn’t but maybe if I start running this sucker again he might. I don’t need a cocoa interface for it… but I’d love to have BTERM (a special telnet/terminal emulator to connect to BBBS which has better enhancements than a traditional terminal program (or telnet)) run on OS X. Then I wouldn’t have to ssh into a Linux box to use it (and there’s squat for good terminal programs for OS X, unfortunately, although I did manage to make xterm behave well enough).
I can’t just carry on from where I left off… back then I was using Mandrake 6.0 (or so), had a SCSI CD-ROM, a bunch of files available for download through the CD system since I didn’t have the space to store all the CDs, and a bunch of networks that may not even exist anymore. Best thing to do would be to start from scratch.
Amusingly enough, I can still see my work on BBBS still lives on. If you look at the About this manual section of the BBBS docs, you’ll see that, once again, I’m involved. In fact, I wrote docs for a number of software including Nexus (another BBS package), and McMail (a frontend mailer). I also beta tested tonnes of different software including BBBS, AllFix, WaterGate, McMail, Oblivion/2, T-Mail, Internet Rex… I know there’s more but those are the ones I can remember off the top of my head.
Will I get back into BBSing to the same extent? Obviously not. Things have changed, Mandriva keeps me busy, and “recreation” such as World of Warcraft, Annvix, Oblivion on XBOX360, and last, but totally not least, my wife and kid, make time spent on a BBS probably quite minimal. But I feel like a guy who played with trains as a kid and then grows up and builds model trains as a hobby. The nice thing about this hobby is it’s completely free now. My BBBS license is paid. My internet access is already paid. I don’t have to pay long distance, I don’t have to get additional phone lines.
And, really, I don’t even care if anyone ever connects to it. It’d be cool if some folks from back in the day did drop in to say hi, but I can live with being a sole user. If nothing else, it gives me an outlet that is different from working on Linux, or doing PHP coding, or even playing games. It’ll bring me back to my teenage years. If nothing else, it’ll amuse me. And the scripting language for BBBS (BZ) is awesome… it’ll be interesting to re-learn that stuff again. Heck… I might even find some of my old BZ programs floating around. =) And maybe I’ll compile openrexx or whatever the OSS implementation of REXX is since BBBS can run REXX scripts too.
Yeah… the more I think about it, the more I think I’ll do it. If it takes me a month to get it setup, who cares? The fun will be in the journey, not the destination.
Nostalgia can be a pretty powerful thing, no? If it wasn’t for nostalgia, I’d probably never do this. But something made me hold onto that CD for the last 6 years.