Friday, February 6, 2009

As the BBS software churns...

The nice thing about the Colossus BBS software was that it was very configurable.  But there were some things about it I didn't like.  Namely, you had to pay for it (eventually) - and I didn't write it.

Now, being a teenager, the not wanting to pay for it is something that nearly everyone can understand.  One of the killer aspects of the on-line world was that there were a lot of "free" software that you could download.  Most of the free software was legitimate -- but there were sites out there that allowed you to download "commercial" software.  The biggest problem with downloading software was the speed.  As we've commented before we were cruising around at 300 baud (remember, that's only 30 characters per second).  I significant piece of commercial software could have been 180KB .. which would only take you 6,000 seconds to download. That's 1 hour, 40 minutes of download time. With other overhead ... this was easily going to be 2+ hours.  

Now why was I concerned about not writing the program?  Well I was an aspiring programmer myself.  When I learned that Colossus was written in Pascal, I figured that I was a pretty good Pascal programmer and I could do better than that.  I think I started writing "My" BBS software several times.  Some time afterwords, the upgrade to Colossus came out ... and it was called of all things, Collie.  It was a bit better than Colossus, but more a rename than anything else.  I'm not sure if I migrated Sanctuary over to Collie or not.  Not to long after that, the people who wrote Colossus / Collie converted their project to Wildcat!  I never really liked that software, it was just a bit to weird for me.

Speaking of weird software, the "BBS" software that always had caught my eye was WWIV.  (I'm not sure what WWIV stood for...I always assumed it was for World War 4, but who knows).  I really enjoyed the format for that software...but every time I downloaded it...it was not very friendly and/or nice for me at the Sysop level.  What I wanted was configurable version of WWIV, with a Colossus Sysop interface.

In hindsight, what I always wanted was the custom software that ran on the Motel West.  Unfortunately the Motel ran on an Apple ][ (yes, it was spelled that way).  And even if I had the gumption to finish my custom BBS re-write, I probably wouldn't have been happy with it.  The thing that made the Motel West one of the best BBS software out there --- was the content, or better said: the contributing users.  The best part of the BBS was the community.

Many years later, I ended up buying a BBS software package.  It was written by a guy named Mike Woltz.  The software was called SpitFire.  It too was written in Pascal.  I never did finish my custom BBS software, but I was able to use what I learned to make add-on modules for my Spitfire BBS software.  It was with that software that "Sanctuary" became a 24-hour a day / 7-day  a week full-time BBS.  It ran for quite a few years.  We had users come and go.  We ended up running games on the BBS which drove much of the traffic.  But we never did really have the community that we did on the Motel West.

Many people look back to their High School years and see the time they spent playing sports, or being with their school friends.  When I look back to my High School years, I remember many a night pecking a way at a keyboard, composing the next chapter of the on-line story, ... and hanging out at Denny's at insane times of night.  When I went to my High School senior prom, I didn't ask a girl at school -- but rather asked a girl from the BBS.  We had a blast!  Afterwords we went to Denny's for Ice-Cream and the other members of the BBS had dressed up for "Prom" as well.  

Wow, that reminds me of the story when the members of the Motel West offered to buy TM.Cavalier a date...but that is a story for another time.

7 comments:

Max said...

Ahh, the online story. I kept a hard copy of that, it's a classic, and I even transcribed it and have it back online. Since it's, well, somewhat questionable and I have students visiting my site, there are no links to it. But to anyone from the Motel West community, the url is : http://www.srossi.net/(insert sir duke's real name here, no spaces, no capitals).html
.
I have to admit that after The Motel West disbanded, I spent a lot less time online, so I remember very little about "Sanctuary". Looking back, I wish I hadn't let the interest fade.

TM.Cavalier said...

Well, I went back and looked at the story again. Can you believe that on the 24th of this month will be the 22nd Aniversary of that particular story?!

I remember that I was out of the BBS scene for a while and when I came back in 1990 the Motel was gone. I think someone else may have taken the name, but if I recall correctly Sir Duke's board was gone. (Along with rumors of him having to leave town in a hurry...) People grow up, people move on -- Ed Broadbent went to Medical School. S'car grew up moved to the east side and became a teacher. Who would have thought?

Max said...

Consider this : Frankie Z and White Lioness grew up and have two little Frankies of their own.

TM.Cavalier said...

That is actually one of the hardest things to believe - I didn't think they would EVER have children beyond the cats...

Things change over time. Let's just hope one of the Frankies doesn't decide to go to Hollywood. "Relax, don't do it!"

The Gearheads said...

Great tagline, TM Chevette...
And on another note.. Happy 22nd anniversary MW Story...


Next, on april first we should celebrate the MWNS.

Hmmm...

Would you join, TM?? Get Max's old 'vert and the battle wagon... I still have one of the magnets... lol

shane said...

Colossus and Collie were written mainly by a friend of mine and myself beginning as early as 1986/1987 in turbo pascal. It was bought out or taken over by the Wildcat! guys, which ruined it

shane said...

Dan Plunkett and myself wrote colossus in 1986/1987 in Virginia. We were 17. It was later bought out by Wildcat, and honestly, i think they ruined it.