Computer Bulletin Board Systems, aka BBS’s, were how many of us “went online” back in the days before the commercial Internet. Thousands of systems were set up all over the world and many were even connected to one another in massive hobbyist networks like FidoNet. I covered the basics of the BBS world in this video from seven years ago.
Muffinterm is a free telnet client that runs across the Mac, iPad and iPhone designed specifically to connect to retro BBS systems complete with full ANSI and IBM PC graphics support. It also supports Commodore PETSCII systems (something I never experienced back in the day). Some other formats will be added to it in the near future.
The BBS system I profiled in the piece is called “Captain’s Quarters II” which is run on the more modern Mystic BBS platform. It’s a great example of what a good BBS looked like back in the day: an active community with a great file section and a fun assortment of games.
BBS systems largely died out in popularity in the mid 90’s when the Internet made the entire world accessible without long distance telephone charges. It was pretty crazy how fast everyone pulled up stakes and went on the ‘Net. If you missed this era of computing I do suggest to check out Jason Scott’s excellent documentary on YouTube. It not only covers the history of computer bulletin boards but also has interviews with some of the people that made it all work.
MuffinTerm is available in the Mac and iPhone/iPad app stores. For PC and Linux users Syncterm is great client. A browser based alternative called fTelnet is another good solution. And if you’re looking for a BBS to connect to the Telnet BBS Guide maintains a list of active bulletin board systems that can be filtered down by BBS software. You’ll even find bulletin boards running on original retro hardware!