I’ve written in the past of my affinity for the old BBS message networks. Nothing comes close to rivaling the communication method on the internet today, but the forum software does a pretty good job. As with other old things, I had forgotten about the interview until I re-read it. It’s an example of how things were back in the day. If a good sysop left the fold you wanted to know, since the quality of the network would drop. This was originally published on October 20, 1995.
I am a member of the RIME network. RIME is a message based network of BBS that use the Postlink software to transfer messages back and forth. If you all know if USENET Newsgroups, RIME is like that except you can address public message to an *individual*. This makes following conversations much easier.
Over the past year I have seen the traffic, message volume, on RIME decrease markedly. Many system have left as well. Ian Evans, sysop of The Baudville BBS, recently posted on RIME that he would be leaving the network and shuttering his BBS. I wondered why.
What follows is our interview and a haunting look at where the for profit BBS is moving . . .
PG: What is the history of your BBS? When did it start? Why did you want to start it?
IE: Baudeville BBS opened its two lines to the public on March 12th, 1992. After being a BBS caller since the early 80’s I was bitten by that ol’ “Why don’t I run the board and let the messages come to _me_” bug. Baudeville started up with a 650 meg drive on a 386-25, with two CD drives. We had one 14.4 line and one 2400.
We had quite an initial following. Despite being small, we carried about 1200 Usenet newsgroups using Ed Hopper’s uuPCB. This was quite unusual for a small PCBoard, as only the big guns in Toronto like CRS and Rose Media had Usenet back then. We even had an article about us in Computing Canada magazine a week or so after we opened.
Things livened up a bit when a local computer dealer struck a contra deal with us. Baudeville replaced its 2400 modem with a second 14.4 and added a third CD.
November ’93 saw the death of the 386-25 due to stress. A 486-50 replaced it, and Desqview made way for OS/2 2.1.
February ’94: The 650 megger died, taking the conferences with it. A corrupt backup also meant I had to rebuild, so I added a 1.2 gig drive and a couple of thousand conferences. We now had over 4300 message areas in nine networks, including 2300 Usenet areas imported via PCBuucp. We had moved to two 14.4 lines and two 28.8 lines.
Alas, OS/2 and my EISA SCSI card were disagreeing with each other. Unpredictable file corruption brought many crashes. Cash flow was tight. By the time I switched back to an ISA SCSI and OS/2 Warp, our membership had been impacted by two things: our hardware problems and the lure of the Internet.
We moved to one line in the Spring of ’95 in an effort to stem the cash flow problem. No matter how hard I tried, I realized that 1-2-3 couldn’t make the numbers look good. My wallet was its life support and it was getting thin. The painful decision was made October 4th, 1995.ÿ Baudeville BBS would turn off its modems in late November.
PG: What do you do to pay the bills? Since your sysoping isn’t doing it, what do you do for a living?
IE: I work as a front-of-house supervisor for the Toronto “Phantom of the Opera”. I also write comedy, though that’s not the bread-winner yet.
PG: What will be your fondest memory of being a sysop?
IE: Meeting online friends. Helping members solve a problem. Reading unsolicited testimonials from members to newcomers.
PG: What aspect of sysoping will you miss the least?
IE: Staying up until the sun rises to make sure a problem is solved.
PG: What equipment did you use to run your BBS?
IE: 486-50 with 16 megs. 3 cd drives, 1.2 gig hard drive.
PG: What is the key to running a successful BBS?
IE: Hard work, determination…and enough capital to make it through the hard times. <sigh>
PG: What are you going to do with all your time now?
IE: I’ll know when the board closes. Until then I’m still eating and breathing running the system. I’ll probably decompress for a few weeks…then look for a hobby.
PG: What types of BBS do you enjoy calling?
IE: A system run by a sysop who cares. I like it when they tell the members, “Last night was hell, we spent 12 hours repairing…” rather than ignoring a service interruption.
PG: Any closing comments?
IE: A special farewell to my members past and present, my fellow sysops who offered advice and friendship over the years, and a thank you to my friends and family who often thought I’d gone missing while I worked on the system. It’s been crazy, but I’d do it all over again. Maybe if I win the lottery…