This week an old friend from the Tulsa Bulletin Board System (BBS) scene found me online and emailed. It had been 26 years. We’ve been reminiscing about some of the people we knew, and found this list of the BBSs from that time. My friend’s BBS is listed, as is my own, and I recall being a user of many of the others.
I found out about BBSs in 1993. I’d just gotten a new computer at home, a 486 PC with a built-in 14.4k modem. Using the modem to connect my computer to other computers was a revelation. It felt like magic.
Later that year I purchased a copy of the Wildcat! BBS system and started my own BBS. It had the most popular doors, connections to FidoNet and several other mail networks, and an extensive file library. I ran the BBS under various guises and themes from the end of 1993 until I got on the Internet in 1995, then sporadically thereafter.
I met a lot of great people through the Tulsa BBS scene. Most of the people were older than I was; it’s a wonder to me now that they tolerated my teenage shenanigans.
BBSs were also an opportunity for me to hone my nascent computer skills. After learning a BASIC dialect for scripting Wildcat! in 1993 I graduated to writing doors in Turbo Pascal. Another sysop showed me the rudiments of C and I studied his code for parsing Echomail messages.
In retrospect it seems like a more innocent time. The BBS scene was a relatively egalitarian community, with people from many different backgrounds coming to BBSs as hobby. All you needed to get involved was a computer and a phone line. There were very few commercial systems in Tulsa, and there wasn’t much money to be made in any case. Long distance calls were expensive back then, so most of the people you met lived within driving distance. I feel fortunate I had the opportunity to learn and grow in that kind of community.