The 300 BAUD BBS Experience

One of the most enjoyable eras in my history of personal computing was the stretch of time from 1984 to about 1986 when the local Bulletin Board System (BBS) scene was in its infancy.

I wrote about this in another post:

I had been trying to figure out a way to demonstrate the experience of using a 300 BAUD terminal program to others. The data transit speed on the Internet dwarfs the lowly 30 characters-per-second rate that most of us had to endure.

A couple of additional caveats often introduced more delays into the experience. On some systems such as the Commodore 64, disk I/O used a serial communication mechanism, so it was slow. In addition, many BBS’s whose core code was written in BASIC would endure pauses as the internal garbage-collect routines would sift through all of the disposed string data baggage to make room for more intermediate strings.

I was finally able to simulate the BBS experience of yesteryear by using a Commodore 64 emulator (WinVICE), Jim Brain’s TCPSer software which fools the emulator into thinking that its a smart-modem connected via the user port, Leif Bloomquist’s “Jamming Signal” BBS running on an actual Commodore 64 connected to the Internet, and Chris Dunn’s freeware CBTerm terminal software.

I first ran TCPSer with the following command-line:

tcpser -v 25232 -s 300 -p 6400 -l 7

Then, I ran WinVice with a command-line that would connect to the running TCPSer interface for simulated serial I/O through the user port:

x64.exe -acia1 -rsdev1 -rsuser -rsuserbaud 300 -rsuserdev 0

Once running the emulator, I loaded up CBTerm. I then issued what appears to be a Hayes-compatible “Attention/Dial/Tone” command (ATDT) except that the “phone number” is the IP address where Leif’s BBS is located.

Here’s the entire session ( I just noticed that the Windows mouse cursor is present during the bulk of the session.  Sorry about that! ):

You’ll note that there are pauses at junctures where disk-access is likely. There are also pauses in input which could be due to garbage-collection operations.

Believe it or not, my friends and I used to do this sort of thing all the time back in the mid-80’s. A number of us used BBS’s into the 90’s, but they started to have kind of a commercial flavor. It didn’t seem much like the hobbyist community of just a few years past.


About Jim Lawless

I've been programming computers for about 36 years ... 30 of that professionally. I've been a teacher, I've worked as a consultant, and have written articles here and there for publications like Dr. Dobbs Journal, The C/C++ Users Journal, Nuts and Volts, and others.
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