What is Special About a BBS?
Well for one the BBS is faster. Generally most of the customers for a BBS come from the
local area and call in via phone line and modem - or on larger systems they may even have "local access"
numbers in other cities or over state lines. By not going through the internet response is
faster (BBSs were around long before the internet became so popular).
The biggest advantage to calling a BBS for downloading vs. a web page is the
download/upload speed for files. I have yet to be able to download as fast from a web page
in comparison to a BBS. File transfer speeds from a BBS are commonly in excess of 3000 cps
(for a 28800 connection) compared to 1200 cps from a web page.
On most BBS systems, files are also usually well organized in libraries and have full descriptions.
Also, a connection with a BBS is not subject to slow down because you have a dedicated
modem connection directly with the computer that runs it compared to running through many,
many servers on the internet, any one of which could cause a slowdown in your session.
While it is true that you can do chat and e-mail and other things on a web page, web pages
don't have the local flavor of a BBS. Most BBSs are one- or two-person operations and as
such they tend to have a more personal atmosphere than a web page. Many people get on a
BBS in the late afternoon or early evening just to unwind and talk and joke with friends.
A BBS tends to have more a feel of community, much like a favorite restaurant or
bar where you meet with friends.
You can't really compare posting messages on a web site to messages on a BBS...A BBS is
instant real time chat and messaging. A BBS is a place that you feel you go to, a web page
sits and stares at you. Compared to a BBS the web doesn't even have the right to use the
term "interactive". BBS's and the web no more compare than apples and oranges.
Each has features that the other lacks with a few overlaps of course. To say one is better
than the other would be an injustice to both.
Most BBSs have an ANSI (Text with colors) interface versus a Windows (Graphic) interface -
although many are converting to a Windows interface. Some people find this to be a
drawback for the BBS. The ANSI interface is not mouse oriented but tends to be faster and
in some respects easier. (Trying to chat on a web page is a good example - you write a
line and have to click in the "send" button and wait for another single line to
come back. On a BBS you type a line and press return - things continue instantly from
there, as each user adds his comments the text just scrolls line by line from the bottom
of the screen to the top with no delays.) Most of the "point and clickers" have
a little trouble with the ANSI/text interface at first but most pick it up fairly fast and
some find they don't want to use the Windows interface anymore to access the BBS.
The BBS and the Web page tend to be compared over and over, but really the BBS is a
different animal. The BBS from the start was meant to be a meeting place for people with
like interests to chat, send e-mail, play games, and just generally have fun (although
sometimes a BBS is used for a tech support or information access functions). The web page,
while it does have similarities to the BBS, it is meant more as an information providing
device. As such you click here and you click there and look at different pages, but it
doesn't have the same sense of community that a BBS can.
FTP is another major difference. Most BBSs that are connected to the internet offer FTP.
(WCS Online does). But (for the files local to the BBS) the BBS has an interactive file
system that lets you read a description of each file and then tag it for download later.
In FTP you can download files but if you don't know what you are looking for there are no
descriptions to read by each of the files. Also the BBS lets you search for a file by
description or file name and other factors - much that same as a search engine like Yahoo,
only local to the BBS. Most BBSs have between 500Mb to several Gigabytes of files on-line.
Both the Web page and the BBS have much to offer and their offerings do cross a bit, but
they are not same thing and should not be thought of as such. BBSs tend to be more
personal and local, while web pages tend to be more "internet wide" and
Please don't get the idea that I'm trying to start a "down with web pages"
debate - I'm not. One is not better or worse than the other. BBSs fill one need in the
on-line world, web pages fill another.
Really the best way to find out more about the BBS (and it's general feel) is to
experience it for yourself - log onto several BBSs. Try to find a BBS that is popular in
your area. You might just find one that kind of feels like home and you might find that
want to come back from time to time to visit.
Well I hope I have given you *some* idea of what a BBS is like and how it is not the same
as a web page. Again, go visit some BBSs! Like this one!
If you haven't yet picked this up from the ongoing discussion, there's probably nothing
better than logging on to some BBS's to understand why. I've found generally that those
who started out in the online world with BBS's, now use both the WWW and BBS's, for they
realize the strong points of each. Those who start out with the www generally don't know
about BBS's, think the www is the sum of the online experience.
Very generally, with BBS's:
- Displays are much faster
- File transfers are much faster
- You have a great choice in transfer protocols, not just ftp
- You can generally access most BBS's with any terminal program and any operating system,
even CPM, old TRS-80's, Commodore 64's,128's
- Most websites don't offer messaging beyond email. The newsgroup reading I've seen is not
via the particular website but your browser, with some exceptions.
- On a BBS you can do email. You can do newsgroups, you can do echomail, you can do local
- I've heard the analogy of comparing newsgroups to Fido echoes as like the difference
between a food fight and a dinner party. This seems to hold true for many of the
newsgroups I've checked out, where, "Make $50,000 in 3 weeks", or "Check
out my hot xxx website" seems to be the main thread regardless of the title of the
- Tools for off-line email and message reading seem to be much more mature and efficient.
As an example, on one of the mailing lists I run, several members complained about the
abrasive posts of a particular member or two on the list. As the posts in question were on
topic, and were not personal attacks, I advised everyone to just put offending posters or
the subjects they post about in their twit list. 95% of the people reading the list from
the Internet side (as opposed to BBS's), had no idea what I was talking about.
Well these are a few items on "What makes a BBS Special". The qualities
mentioned earlier ARE available on the Internet, but it's rare they are all available from
the same site. THAT is part of what makes a BBS, and it contributes to a sense of
community lacking on the web generally. But things ARE improving, as many
programmers are rushing to create real BBS's on the web. Some are here. Some are almost