Apple II, Raspberry Pi, Retro, Vintage

Telnet BBSes – oooh the feels!

April 21, 2018

Back in the day before the Internet was really available to the public, there were Bulletin Board Systems, or BBSes.
BBSes were applications running on (usually) a single computer, that you could connect to with terminal client programs. You usually did this over a dial-up modem connection to the modem connected to the BBS computer. Nowadays in the retro computing community, BBSes are making a comeback.
A program for modern computers called TCPSER has been written (I couldn’t find the authors name) that will emulate a Hayes-compatible modem over a TCP connection. You start it by feeding it parameters telling it to connect to your RS-232 serial port. Here is my command that I use to start TCPSER:

sudo tcpser -d /dev/ttyUSB2 -l 7 -s 19200

This allows the software talking to that serial port to bridge to TCP/IP and use protocols like telnet to interact with the world at large.
Another fairly new invention is the WiModem232, which is an external peripheral that uses a 25-pin RS232 serial interface to connect your computer to your WiFi network. I do not have one, but I believe it does the same thing as TCPSER but in a complete hardware solution, with no need for a modern computer to bridge the connection.

For a client software, since I am using my Pi as an emulated Hayes modem, I need to use dial-up terminal software. When I was connecting from my IIe I was using ProTerm. Since I got the IIgs working with the CFFA3000, I have started using Spectrum (http://speccie.uk/software/). It works very well. It’s nice to have that GUI for setting things up and saving your settings. When I get a Uthernet II card, I will no longer need to use TCPSER to connect. I will be able to connect to these BBSes directly via any number of applications that support Telnet – Spectrum has a plugin/version that is designed for this, and I may just keep using it. I’ll have to run them all through a test and see who comes out on top…

Many of the BBSes of old were being run by amateur hobbiests and with the invention of TCPSER and the WiModem232, they have been starting the BBSes back up, changing them from dialup to Telnet connection types. Towards the end of 2017, I discovered a new one that was claiming to run on real Apple II hardware. It is called a 80’s Apple II BBS. When I connected to it, it brought back all of those early 1990s vibes for me (my first computer that had a modem was not in the 80’s but the 90s.) I quickly found a few others that were very welcoming of the A2 community and I now have three favorites that I connect to nearly every day. Here is my current list :

  1. Captains Quarters – cqbbs.ddns.net:6502
  2. A 80’s Apple II BBS – a80sappleiibbs.ddns.net:6502
  3. Dura Europas- dura- bbs.net:6359

I connect to these sites almost every day, read and post back and forth with the other members, and play trivia, which is currently my favorite bbs activity.
Connecting to the BBSes has a very nostalgic feel. It helps me feel a sense of belonging that pretty much could be used to describe the entire Apple II community in my experience. Whether on Usenet, Facebook, WWW or a telnet BBS, this community will welcome you with open arms, share it’s knowledge and when in need, they will even share their computers.


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1 Comment

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