Paleocomputing watch: Tech magazines cover the BBS scene

The wonderful folks at Paleotronic (previously) have rounded up scans of articles from 1980s-era computer magazines that advised new computer users on navigating the burgeoning world of dial-up BBSes.

Dial-ups were my introduction to networked computing. We had an acoustic coupler and teletype connected to a PDP at the University of Toronto in 1977 when I was 6, but it wasn't until we got an Apple ][+ and a Hayes modem card in 1979 that the world opened up for me. That system didn't have enough expansion slots to accommodate all the cards we had for it, so installing the modem meant swapping out the 80 column card, which meant that we lost access to lower-case characters when we were online. My modem days started out in ALL CAPS.

Within a couple years, my friends and I were inveigling our parents to drive us to one anothers' houses with our computers and modems for all-night dial-up runs through Toronto's BBSes. By the late 1980s, there were multiple local systems that bridged into Fidonet and then (through Tim Pozar and Tom Jennings's gateway) into Usenet. Then I started to dial The WELL in San Francisco after reading about it in Reality Hackers (the precursor to Mondo 2000), and rang up some gigantic long-distance bills, until the University of Toronto started offering paid dialup shells to its General Purpose Unix system, and telnet became an option. Right from the start, dial-up systems were a gateway to physical meetups: SCA nights making chainmail; hormonal teen mass get-togethers for the Free Access Network chat system; rollicking dinners with the denizens of the Pyroto Mountains; face-to-face meetups for Magic and TVOnline.

Paleotronic's roundup really brought all that back for me, especially the Data Communications' feature on the allure of becoming a sysop — the most fervent of my unrealized dreams of that era.

BBSes: Partying Online Like It's 1989 [Paleotronic]