October 1990 to January 2000
Powerhouse BBS used GT Power Software and was part of the world
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.
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:
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.
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.
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...