During my research for an article series about the history of the internet I came across BBS and FidoNet. It came as a surprise to me that there are still original BBS setups running and have a consistent user base. So, naturally I wanted to set up my own server. I discovered that it is not that easy to set up the BBS exactly like it used to be but the good news is that thanks to a lot of creative people and enthusiasts there are some newer versions of BBS written in today’s technologies.
ranuzz-bbs instance is up for anyone to connect.
telnet ranuzzbbs.makeall.dev 8888
This setup is running on default config and I didn’t do anything special to change the look and feel or secure the instance. Go nuts !
Internet in its current form is a network or networks of computer systems that are connected using TCP/IP protocols. Started as a fault tolerant telecommunication system it took over the existing circuit switched telephone network. Besides academic, research and defense interests, how did it become a household name? Like any other platform it needed a killer application to make it popular. For the PC industry it was business applications and video games that made it popular among the masses. For the internet it was a social network. A place where people can share thoughts and talk to other people. In the process people created tons of content, some for entertainment and some pure knowledge.
Bulletin board system was one of the earliest applications deployed over the internet that gave people something to do online. It could be the first social network that was also decentralized and was not for profit. At least in the start.
I’ll write some more about BBS, FidoNet, email and IRC but this post is about my experience running enigma-bbs.
Just to recap, BBS were servers back in 80s and 90s that were accessible to anyone connected with a telephone line and had a modem and compatible computer. BBS server owners or sysops installed an application (BBS) that let others interact with their machine. Callee or a user could create an account, leave a message, send a message to another user, upload or download files and use something called
doors to launch and use applications, yeah, that much.
There are still original BBS and FidoNet connected to the internet but for me it would be easier to try a BBS which is built with current tech and uses a more traditional approach to host the server. My BBS instance (enigma-bbs) is hosted on a VM and accessible over telnet (
Although it is recommended to use a BBS compatible shell, my windows terminal worked fine, and telnet revealed this cool landing page that gives the option to login or create an account by applying to sysops !
Signing Up or Applying !
Sign up form is scary with so much personal information to fill in. But its ok to fill in junk values and just focus on username and password
Dashboard or Main Page
Just after the login the user is welcomed with a dashboard with access to all the features I mentioned before.
There is an oneliner option where you can say whatever is in your mind. Just like twitter, facebook status or similar things. Others can see these when they login.
Messaging or Email
Just to be clear this was/is not an email system. It worked like a personal messaging system within a single BBS but with help of FidoNet it actually behaved as an email as well which was slower than snail mail at the time.
And the file sharing with option to both upload and download. Not sure how much storage was available back in the days but for this server it is just below 10 GB
This is something special. Letting a user to launch another application on the host server. This is something I will explore a bit more in a later post.
This was it and pretty easy to play around !