Camen Design Forum

BBS: The Documentary

append delete Kroc

I wanted to share this with you because a) it’s absolutely great and b) because this is something close to my heart and the reason why this forum exists.

If you are younger than 25 or 30 (depending when you first used a computer), you owe it to yourself to watch BBS: The Documentary…

It’s an 8-part documentary covering the history of the Bulletin Board System, the precursor to the modern Internet and World Wide Web; when you had to pick up the phone and dial into each forum you wanted to read much like if you had to disconnect and reconnect your modem every time you wanted to change website. Even under heavy technical restrictions and speeds so slow you could read the information as it downloaded, a culture was created that is the modern foundation of our Internet culture today.

I first started out on the Internet in 1996, the year that BBSes simply dropped dead in the face of the Internet, the World Wide Web and AOL. Whilst I never got to live in that world of BBSes, I was always aware of their importance in the infrastructure that I grew up in. During their hey-day 10 years earlier, the demo scene, art scene and hacking scenes were a wild west of home-brew equipment and software solutions, cutting a cultural edge that wouldn’t become commonplace until the rather sterile Facebook appeared on the scene.

I created these forums after reading a Commodore 64 scene diskzine "Recollection" which recounted the tales of the truly 1337 pioneers of the day. It’s well worth reading if you have any interest in copy protection, phone hacking and general scene lore.

I wanted to somehow contribute my respect for this era, but even as much as I would love to be able to make a diskzine, there wouldn’t be any meaningful content I could possibly contribute. _My_ scene was the web, always had been. Early forums and web communities. The best I could do was contribute how I knew best, by paying homage to BBSes of yesteryear with my own forum. It took three or four days to build, and the rest is all recorded in the threads right here.

Reply RSS


append delete #1. oldtimes

Oh those golden times! I used BBS sites about three years before web boom started around 1995.

Note that web didn't just kill BBSes, but also important internet services such as Archie and Gopher were soon dead. It is amazing how the usenet has managed to survive this long.

For me the best thing in BBS systems were (not necessary in this order :) porn pictures, warez, turn based multiplayer games and local discussion forums. I also used to read some usenet-style inter-BBS forums, but can't recall anymore what was the technology or if it was some centrally administered / controlled system here in Finland.

Definitely going to add those documents to my long todo list!

append delete #2. Kroc

Ah, Finland! The documentary faults by being entirely Amerio-centric, for as big as the scene was in North America, it was twice the size in Europe. In the ’80s the UK was the centre of the gaming world, most games were released in the UK & Europe and the only way America would see half the releases was through warez sent over by blue-boxed long distance phone calls.

Most cracking was done in Europe and the American scene was geared toward phreaking activities in order to first get the cracks from Europe and distribute them across the USA, and NTSC-fixing, demos and intros.

The sheer scale and sparseness of America however gave the ideal melting pot environment that led to great innovations like FidoNet.

append delete #3. mrjohnsly

Thanks for posting this (on Twitter). BBSes were a little before my time, so it's great to find out about how these communities got together and how individual each BBS was.

It's also made me realise how much I miss having a room full of spare PC parts and computers with half a case since cleansing my life with a MacBook.

#4. theraje

This post was deleted by its owner

append delete #5. oldtimes

Ah, you said it! It was FidoNet. As for hosts running BBS server software in early-90's, I think OS/2 was quite popular choice as it was generally seen so stable and solid system. (plus it was multitasking nicely which wasn't obvious then!)

I don't know how many IRC (or other more recent chatting technologies based on IRC) users know this, but IRC has BBS background as well:…

append delete #6. SpeedoJoe

Downloaded it a few years ago. Worth watching if you dabbled in BBS' back in the day.


(Leave this as-is, it’s a trap!)

There is no need to “register”, just enter the same name + password of your choice every time.

Pro tip: Use markup to add links, quotes and more.

Your friendly neighbourhood moderators: Kroc, Impressed, Martijn