Powerhouse BBS
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GTNet 335/000

October 1990 to January 2000

Powerhouse BBS used GT Power Software and was part of the world wide GTNet

Welcome screen on Powerhouse BBS

In these days when the Internet and high speed broadband are available to most households in the country it is nice to remember a time when using a computer to 'talk' to people all over the world was a novelty. For nearly ten years I ran a BBS from my home which all started some time in the 1980s when, for reasons I have long forgotten, I bought myself a modem.

My first modem was a 300 baud Nice Modem connected to the serial port of my Commodore 64 and made, if I remember correctly, in Perth. To give you some idea of the speed of 300baud plain text was transferred at about the same speed as you could read it comfortably. Data such as program files were transferred   v e r y    s l o w l y... using protocols with cumbersome error checking; seriously... sending a floppy disk by post was almost quicker but from this small and slow beginning my interest grew as I realised my computer could bring the world to my living room via the telephone. How things have progressed since then. Anyway back to the story...

Powerhouse BBS was on line from 1990 until January 2000 when a combination of waning interest, an aging, failing computer and Y2K problems finally persuaded me to shut it down. It had been part of my life for nearly ten years and this page is a brief record of its passing.

A BBS?

Bulletin Board Services (BBS) pre-date the Internet as a way for people all over the world to communicate. They were usually run as a hobby (though some did charge their users) and took hours of dedicated maintenance - having said that they were a great deal of fun. The system needed at least one phone line connected via a modem to a (usually) dedicated computer, fortunately in those days line rental was relatively cheap. These phone numbers were usually passed by word of mouth or via messages left on other BBSs. The operator of these systems was called a Sysop (System operator)

OK... what did users find on a BBS? Well, basically for the users of a BBS there were three main areas:

Messaging

There were hundreds of message areas where users could discuss just about anything. Unlike Usenet these message areas were moderated to a certain extend by the Sysops who could prevent users who were abusive from accessing them however in practice this was rarely needed.

While reading messages a user could reply to any they found interesting and the reply stored on the host computer. During the night the system would automatically shut down and transfer all the replies to the 'hub' computer then download all the new mail. In this way all the messages were distributed all over the globe, not instantly like the internet but very effective nontheless.

It was also possible to use a 'door' (see below) to download all the messages of interest then the user could read and reply at  leisure off line and upload any replies next time they connected.

Downloads

A very popular part of BBSing; most systems had many megs of freeware or shareware files available for download and with the advent of the CD this capacity was dramatically increased. Some systems had download/upload ratios where users had to upload some files to be able to download though personally I never implimented this as I thought it was self defeating with rubbish uploaded to beat the system. All the files were checked for viruses and had to be catalogued so there was a fair bit of work here eventually I wrote a couple of (Quick Basic) programs to help automate the process.

Doors (Games)

Most BBSs had many games for users to play on line, on my system the most popular was Global Wars  (a version of the board game Risk) but there were many games available including adventure games.

For a long time there was a game of Diplomacy running, it was hosted by one of my users and each game carried on over many months with one week allocated for each move. I thought this was a fascinating use of a BBS because it combined the game with the messaging ability of the system. Game players had access to a message area where they could negotiate and discuss the game in public or privately and send or receive the results of their moves. Of course in Diplomacy an apparent 'mistake' when a private message is sent publically might just be a ruse to mislead ;)

Powerhouse BBS - A Brief History

Powerhouse BBS first went on line full time on the 7th October 1990 as a single node GT Board 302/017 using a 386DX25 4 megs of RAM , a 32 meg hard disk and a 2400 Avtec modem. I originally started it when the Sysop of my favourite board at the time went on holiday and took his computer with him. For some reason it was a success almost from the word go, on the 31st July 1991 a second line was added to cope with the growing number of users; both lines ran continuously 24hrs a day until August 1998 when the popularity of the Internet reduced user numbers and I shut one line down. Even with just one line running I think that nearly 10 years service  makes Powerhouse the longest running  BBS in the Illawarra. I believe the next in line is the old IBBS which closed down several years ago after 7 years faithful service.

(I remember IBBS with great fondness, it introduced BBSs to the Illawarra, starting life on a Commodore 64, a couple of 1 meg floppy disks as storage and a 300 baud modem, at the time it seemed the most wonderful thing to be able to 'talk' to other people via my computer.)

From Sept 1992 Powerhouse BBS acted as the local 'hub' for all the Illawarra GT boards (there were five at the time). In May 1995 there was a slight reshuffle in the networks in Australia and the Illawarra boards formed net 335, Powerhouse BBS becoming 335/000.

When Powerhouse BBS finally shut down it was running a 486DX33 with 8 Megs of RAM and USR Courier V Everything modem. The operating system was MSDOS 5.0 and Desqview 386 (the latter knocked Windows 3.1 for six in my opinion).

As you can see the computer didn't need to be on the cutting edge of technology to run a BBS, it was a lot of fun and you don't have to be a computer whiz to do it - just look at me! My personal enthusiasm for running a BBS waned over the last year or so and I probably only kept it going because people still used it however user numbers were well down from those halcyon days when there was an average of over 70 callers a day.

I finally decided to call it a day at the end of January 2000 and shut the board down on Australia Day nearly ten years after it first went on line. It's been fun...

Copyright © Bruce Lloyd 2001 to 2012


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