is a BBS?
What does a BBS have that I can't find on the Internet?
What is a Bulletin Board System?
A Bulletin Board System is an Online Service that allows callers to Send and Receive Private E-Mail, Read and Post Messages under Topic Forums, Upload and Download Files, find Tech Support, have live "Chat" conversations with other callers (public and private), play Online Games, and much more. See the image above? That's a typical BBS Main Menu (for ANSI Telnet and Java Telnet Browser Modes). It is NOT the Internet. For example, America Online and CompuServe are just BIG Bulletin Boards! What makes a local BBS special, is the system speed, personal service, the support, and the members. People tend to get to know one another on a local service. And they even develop relationships! And keep in mind - these are people in YOUR AREA - not someone from halfway around the globe! Believe it or not - the Internet DOES NOT HAVE EVERYTHING! Local Services also cost far less, are MUCH FASTER, and usually much easier to use than a big online service or the Internet. The Internet has it's purposes, but comparing it to a BBS is like comparing apples and oranges! Think of it this way - where would you rather hang out to relax - at the Club (A BBS) or at an overcrowded mall (The Internet)? Also a local online service can be customized to the callers' needs. It adjusts to the members wants and desires, where as the Internet is merely impersonal content. It just sits there like a bump on the log.
Remember life before the Web? When you spent hours online calling BBS systems? Remember the online games you use to play? Remember the national and international message conferences and forums? Remember when these systems were your source for the latest and greatest shareware software out there? When did you last call a local BBS? Bet you have been too busy surfing the Web! Well, BBS systems have not gone away. There are still a few out there. Most have become internet accessible now and are still a source of fun, interest, and entertainment.
Try a BBS for a Change!
For those who have never logged onto a BBS, try it! The majority offer free access to the public. You have nothing to loose! Download one of the communications programs below and try calling some BBSes in your area. If you live in the St. Louis/314 area, get the BComm Freeware program with the 314 area dialing directory. If you live elsewhere, visit thedirectory.org and download a text BBS listing of BBSes in your area code. Also visit the World Wide BBS List for info and links to telnetable BBSes on the net. Feel free to help yourself to any of the following BBS related Programs!
What's so Special about BBSes?
Well for one the BBS is faster. Generally most of the callers for a BBS come from the local area and call in via phone line and modem - or on larger systems they may even have "local access" numbers in other cities or over state lines. By not going through the internet response is faster (BBSs were around long before the internet got popular). This is not to "down" the internet - more and more BBSs are getting connected to the internet every day (like Fire Escape's BBS), but generally BBSs are more local. The biggest advantage to calling a BBS for downloading vs. a web page is the download/upload speed for files. I have yet to be able to download as fast from a web page in comparison to a BBS. File transfer speeds from a BBS are commonly in excess of 3000 cps compared to 1200 cps from an ftp site. On most BBS systems, files are also usually well organized in libraries and have full descriptions. Click here to see a BBS File Area Listing.
Also, a connection with a BBS is not subject to slow down because you have a dedicated modem connection directly with the computer that runs it compared to depending on many servers on the internet. While it is true that you can do chat (sorta) and e-mail and other things on a web page. The web page doesn't have the local flavor of a BBS. Most BBSs are one or two-man operations and as such they tend to have a more personal atmosphere than a web page. Many people get on a BBS in the late afternoon or early evening just to unwind and talk and joke with friends. A BBS tends to have more of a *community* feel, much like a favorite restaurant or bar where you meet with friends.
You can't really compare posting msg's on a web site to msg's on a bbs...A bbs is instant real time chat and messageing. A bbs is a place that you feel you go to, a web page sits and stares at you. Compared to a bbs the web doesn't even have the right to use the term "interactive". I'm not down on the web, but I am really sick of everyone comparing them. They no more compare than apples and oranges in my mind. Each has features that the other lacks with a few overlaps of course. To say one is better than the other would be an injustice to both. Click here to see a BBS Message Menu.
Most BBSs have an ANSI (Text with colors) interface versus a Windows (Graphic) interface - although many are converting to a Windows interface. Some people find this to be a drawback for the BBS. The ANSI interface is not mouse oriented but tends to be faster and in some respects easier. Click here to see what ANSI looks like.
Trying to chat on a web page is a good example - you write a line and have to click in the "send" button and wait for another single line to come back. On a BBS you type a line and press return - things continue instantly from there, as each user adds his comments the text just scrolls line by line from the bottom of the screen to the top with no delays. Most of the "point and clickers" have a little trouble with the ANSI/text interface at first but most pick it up fairly fast and some find they don't want to use the Windows interface anymore to access the BBS <grin>.
The BBS and the Web page tend to be compared over and over, but really the BBS is a different animal. The BBS from the start was meant to be a meeting place for people with like interests to chat, send e-mail, play games, and just generally have fun (although sometimes a BBS is used for a tech support or information access functions). The web page, while it does have similarities to the BBS, it is meant more as an infomation providing device. As such you click here and you click there and look at different pages, but it doesn't have the same sense of community that a BBS can.
FTP is another major difference. Most BBSs that are connected to the internet offer FTP. (Fire Escape's BBS does). But (for the files local to the BBS) the BBS has an interactive file system that lets you read a description of each file and then tag it for download later. In FTP you can download files but if you don't know what you are looking for it can be confusing as there are no descriptions to read by each of the files. Also the BBS lets you search for a file by description or file name and other factors - much the same as a search engine like Yahoo does, only it's local to the BBS. Most BBSs have between 500Mb to several Gigabytes of files online. Click here to see a BBS File Menu.
Both the Web page and the BBS have much to offer and their offerings do cross a bit, but they are not same thing and should not be thought of as such. The BBS tends to be more personal and local, while the web page tends to be more "internet wide" and commercial. Please don't get the idea that I'm trying to start a "down with web pages" debate - I'm not. One is not better or worse than the other. BBSs fill one need in the online world, and web pages fill a different one. Really the best way to find out more about the BBS (and it's general feel) is to experience it for yourself - log onto several BBSs. Try to find a BBS that is popular in your area. You might just find one that kinda feels like home and you might find that you want to come back from time to time to visit. <grin>
Well I hope I have given you *some* idea of what a BBS is like and how it is not the same as a web page. Again, go visit some BBSs! Like this one. :) I've found that those people who started out in the online world with BBS's, now use BOTH the WWW and BBS's, for they realize the strong points of each. Those who started out with the WWW generally don't know about BBS's, and think the WWW is the sum of all online experience.
Well these are a few off the top of my head. The qualities mentioned earlier ARE available on the Internet, but it's rare they are all available from the same site. THAT is part of what makes a BBS, and it contributes to a sense of community lacking on the web generally. But things ARE improving, as many programmers are rushing to create real BBS's on the web. Some are here. Some are almost here. For another Sysop's opinion on BBSes vs the Internet, click here. And Fire Escape's BBS is DEFINITELY "HERE". ;)