Why BBS?
By Steeplejack *
Sysop: AfTeR FoReVeR Communications

While engaged in some local discussion comparing the BBS to the web, I really sat and thought about what it is that I really love about BBSing, and what it really has to offer people in this 'webbed'  world. I thought I might share these thoughts with those here as I did localy.

The net is fantastic for accessing huge file databases worldwide, and you can find any file ever put out with a little patience and a bit of searching...  you can get information on just about any subject matter you want on web pages...  you can download while doing other things, you can shop, you can have worldwide live conferences on different subjects in pre-aranged chat areas, you can chatter away in the chat rooms... and it is great forall of those other large scale things you wish to do.

All that is fine, and useful to many people...

While a BBS does not have all of these capabilities, (and it 'can' have them to a limited extent if the, sysop wants to), the ones that it does have that are similar, are actually performed in a better environment...

The reason for that is that the internet *IS* as it's described,  a super-highway, while the BBS is that little side road in the country you love to drive down all the time to get away from the 'hustle' and 'hassles'. It is like 'why' go to the supermarket if all you need is tomatoes and you're not going to be doing any other shopping?  It's a much more pleasant experience to drive down the road to that little stand and see that freindly guy who has the greatest home grown tomatoes you've ever seen.  No hassles of waiting in line for the little bit you came to get, no crowds in the aisles, no parking problems, no constant advertisements breaking into the piped in music over the intercom.  It's actually even worth going out of the way for to many people.

Compare the internet newsgroups  :(   (Can o' SPAM groups) to the echos of fidonet...  fidonet is a far better environment, free of spam, for the continuing discussion of various topics, and the majority of the echos are moderated well enough that a person can go into them feeling fairly confident that they won't be subjected to annonymous jerks continuously antagonizing them.  There are tons of other BBS networks as well, while not as large as fidonet, that provide these friendlier and spam free environments...AND, get this, FidoNet gets out to areas of the world where the intenet is noteven permitted to exist!

A BBS that can get it's local message areas active, (and believe it or not, I have seen some in some areas run by sysops who 'care' that ROCK), cannot be matched for it's type of social, personal interaction by anything on the internet.

Many people that like to call BBSs do so because they love chatting with the locals...  people who have things in common geographicly, who know the same places as they do, follow the same local band, or like going to local sports events, or went to the same school.  People who want to discuss local events like computer fairs, county fairs, upcoming concerts at the local civic centers and the like...

They do so because they know they will most likely actually be able to meet some of the people they interact with on the BBS and become friends if they so choose, and attend these very things they discuss, togehter. They do so because the glory of the BBS is that it is *NOT* as large as the internet (a good thing) and being 'familiar' with the 'regulars', the conversations are much more relaxed, layed back, and personal. People actually enjoy this.  AND, when the word does get out again, and the BBS -is- re-discovered, they will flock to boards that are designed to present these features to their full potential, despite the fact that they may have to install a piece of software that didn't come with the system. (HyperTerminal is tough on a new user)  :(

** They can install games sure enough...  why wouldn't they be able to, or willing to install a terminal that can open op an 'alternative' form of online entertainment? **

This is an environment that the internet could *NEVER* provide...  no matter -how- hard it tried, due to it's shear size.  That would be like Domino's trying to put out a 'true' homestyle, mom & pop shop pizza, and actually being able to do it...  it can't be done...  (And the worst of those mom&pop pizza's blow away the best pizza the likes of Domino's or Pizza Hut has -ever- put out, or ever will).

Some people actually still love those text based adventure games, hence the huge popularity of the various inter-BBS game networks, and don't anybody ever kid yourself, they are big.  I know of 'several' individual networks for just the game of BRE alone, and I don't know all of them, that have close to a hundred different BBSs in each of them, and most of the BBSs have their BRE games full to capacity with the 25 player limit...  that is THOUSANDS upon thousands of people playing just *ONE* inter-BBS game at the same time, and there are a lot of other inter-bbs games & leagues.

So they can't multi-task online...  big deal...  Not many other poeple besides sysops download many files from BBSs anyway...  with the web there, this is no longer why they come to a BBS.  They don't need to multi-task...  you can't write messages and play a game at the same time anyway.

The only real 'similarity' that is left between a BBS and the internet, is that they are both connected to via modem...  Comparing the two is like comparing a car to a boat...  they both run on gas, but are two different things.  They can't be the same.  Somebody tried that back in the 50's and it failed, the same as trying to make a BBS become primarily a 'part' of the web, and forsaking the dial-ins, would fail.  Don't get me wrong, I do plan on having telnet, but 'inbound' only...  I don't mind attracting people 'off' the web, but I'm not providing a means to get 'on' it.  The idea is to get people 'into' the BBS, 'keep' them there, and give them a 'reason' to keep coming back.

The sysops who realize where the modern day market -is- for the BBS, and who pursues it, will no doubt still have enjoyment left in his/her favorite hobby for years to come. Sysops trying to make BBSs 'like' the web, or to integrate it 'into' the web as the main means of access to the BBS will end up failing sourly in their attempts...  thier BBSs will just be absorbed and become another spec of road- dust on an endless highway. Utilizing the software features, and networks available to their fullest potential, and attracting the local crowd into the 'roadside stand' will make the BBS come back to life and flourish...  while maybe never achieving the numbers of the old days, they will inevitably yet once again be fairly popular.  I for one, don't want to see the BBS become 'like' the web, or attract the 'huge' numbers...  just enough to make it regularly active, while preserving that 'hometown' apeal...  Just enough to make it a popular sub-culture enjoyed by fun loving people.

I'm -glad- it's -not- like the web.

Steeplejack *
Sysop: AfTeR FoReVeR Communications
Moderator: BBS267 - 518 Area BBS Promotion