[A short story about bbstros..........................]
Aka: 'things that ran fine on a 386sx'


Bulletin Board Systems: something everybody already forgot.

Something nobody will remember in 50 years, except for Wikipedia.

Manga-style ad for some old Italian BBS
To your nephews you'll tell: 'Yes, we used those, like photographic film or books'. BBSes were the grannys of the Internets, most of the time used in a serial-way, accepting just one user at time.
And sometimes, the sysop (yeah, maybe Wikipedia will keep memory of him too) came out of nowhere, breaking your intimate and private feeling of leeching files or, badly, some early porn pics, and greeted you or talked to you when the last thing you wanted was to talk.

So next time you logged in, you were like a thief with your paranoid eyes spinning around, fearing the sysop would appear from nowhere, again.

But demoscene, which is everywhere there is shortage of space, bytes, screen resolution or bandwidth, soon started to sponsor BBSes, basically for the selfish need to advertise its productions, or just to spread, well, you know, good old 'stuff' (legal and illegal). Laws were really slow to realize what was happening, so there was a short timelapse where 'hackers' lived in an happy limbo of anarchy.

So, 'bbstros' were born. What are those? Well, take a demo. Make it 3 or 4 kilobytes long. Add music. Add some text talking about telephone numbers, forums and warez and one or two demoscenic effects. There you are. This kind of productions sneaked easily into the 'big' zipfiles containing warez legal software, just like a sort of benign virus.

You can fit ASCII art there, 4k are spacious
Even well known groups of the demoscene made bbstros.

Maybe the most well known BBS ad is 'Starport 2' by the Future Crew. Yeah, that mythical group that made the original Second Reality (not the C64 remake).

I remember reading the (printed) source code of STARPORT.COM in my uncle's bathroom. You could find many coding tricks there, not only size related ones, and I couldn't agree more upon the quote by Psi 'Making a small intro is not hard. Making a small intro with a nice feel is very hard'. Because you know, Starport 2 was made in 1993, and was 1993 bytes long. Yeah, things like that counted in 1993.

bbstros showed off cryptic and mysterious acronyms like 'V32bis', 'DGI',' GSN' or talked about forgotten places like 'The Asylum', 'The Lounge', 'Blastersound', 'Digital Nightmare', 'The One', 'Virtual Light', 'Equalizer' and so on. And exotic international prefixes you would be afraid (or not so) to call. But at the end you would make that call, attracted by that '3 Gigabytes' of downloadable software or by the luxurious 'free email'.

A.C.E. BBS ad from Karl/Nooon
There is another couple of mythical intros made for the (as much as mythical) french A.C.E. BBS. Both are productions of Karl/Nooon.

One (ACE2.COM) is 2.221 bytes and shows a 3d voxel rotating 'ACE' logo. The second falls in the 'things that ran fine on a 386sx' category (I should write a post just on that concept, someday). It's only 2.465 bytes long, and has a nice big scrolling font and a background rotozoomer with the then famous 'Intel Outside' motto.

If you wanted 'the latest warez' for (no less than) HP48, you had to call 'The One', back in 1994. 'The One' had a nice ad, made by Eclipse, that is very Amiga-ish in its colours, effects and in the font. Pointless to say, this ran fine on a 386 too.

Italy had BBSes as well.
Many were demo-related (it's 1995, remember). Something of them still exists, if you look closer. Somewhere on this page you can find old vestiges of that time appearing as modern-day .png files. If launching again those reliquiae makes your DosBox sound strange and metallic, you should be aware that many DOS BBS intros exploited the old 'Adlib' (or OPL2, integrated into the SoundBlasters) chip/soundcard, because an Adlib player routine is much more simple and small than a full digital replayer. Some BBS intros have ASCII graphics also, because that's tiny (and colorful).

Amiga style on PC
Oh well, that was just the tip of the iceberg for bbstros.

There were sub-scenes of BBS intros on Amiga, C64 and Atari too. Still, someone in a moment of nostalgia makes a bbstro for Windows.

That makes no sense, you may say. But what is this if not an expression of something measured in kilobytes, reduced to 32 colours, four channels and with BBS telephone numbers that start with "+", called demoscene?


Edit: apparently, BBS-fever infected Pouet too:


posted by friol at 2/08/2015 08:07:00 PM - under: , , , - comments? here (0)



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