BBS: The Documentary
(commonly referred to as BBS Documentary) is a 3-disc, 8-episode documentary about the subculture born from the creation of the bulletin board system (BBS) filmed by computer historian Jason Scott Sadofsky of textfiles.com. Production work began in July 2001 and completed in December 2004. The finished product began shipping in May 2005. Although the documentary was released under the Creative Commons Attribute-ShareAlike 2.0 License , meaning that anyone can legally download it for free, Jason Scott Sadofsky has made it known that the downloadable version is only a taste of the full experience and recommends that individuals purchase the documentary DVDs.
Long before the Internet escaped from the lab, connected the planet and redefined what it meant to use a computer...
....there was a brave and pioneering band of computer users who spent their time, money and sanity setting up their home computers and phone lines to welcome anyone who called. By using a modem, anyone else who knew the phone number of these computers could connect to them, leave messages, send and recieve files.... and millions did.
They called these places "Bulletin Board Systems", or BBSes. And their collections of messages, rants, thoughts and dreams became the way that an entire generation learned about being online. When the Internet grew in popularity in the early 1990s, the world of the BBS faded, changed, and became a part of the present networked world.. but it wasn't the same.
In the Summer of 2001, Jason Scott, a computer historian (and proprietor of the textfiles.com history site) wondered if anyone had made a film about these BBSes. They hadn't, so he decided he would. Four years, thousands of miles of travelling, and over 200 interviews later, "BBS: The Documentary", a mini-series of 8 episodes about the history of the BBS, is now available. Spanning 3 DVDs and totalling five and a half hours, this documentary is actually eight documentaries about different aspects of this important story in the annals of computer history.
* Baud introduces the story of the beginning of the BBS, including interviews with Ward Christensen and Randy Suess, who used a snowstorm as an inspiration to change the world.
* Sysops and Users introduces the stories of the people who used BBSes, and lets them tell their own stories of living in this new world.
* Make it Pay covers the BBS industry that rose in the 1980's and grew to fantastic heights before disappearing almost overnight.
* Fidonet covers the largest volunteer-run computer network in history, and the people who made it a joy and a political nightmare.
* Artscene tells the rarely-heard history of the ANSI Art Scene that thrived in the BBS world, where art was currency and battles waged over nothing more than pure talent.
* HPAC (Hacking Phreaking Anarchy Cracking) hears from some of the users of "underground" BBSes and their unique view of the world of information and computers.
* Compression tells the story of the PKWARE/SEA legal battle of the late 1980s and how a fight that broke out over something as simple as data compression resulted in waylaid lives and lost opportunity.
* No Carrier wishes a fond farewell to the dial-up BBS and its integration into the Internet.
Ideal as either a teaching tool or a reminder of your own memories, the BBS Documentary Collection brings back this nearly-forgotten time in a way that will tell the story... one caller at a time.
A Bulletin Board System, or BBS, is a computer system running software that allows users to connect and log in to the system using a terminal program. Once logged in, a user can perform functions such as uploading and downloading software and data, reading news and bulletins, and exchanging messages with other users, either through electronic mail or in public message boards. Many BBSes also offer on-line games, in which users can compete with each other, and BBSes with multiple phone lines often provide chat rooms, allowing users to interact with each other.
Originally BBSes were accessed only over a phone line using a modem, but by the early 1990s some BBSes allowed access via a Telnet, packet switched network, or packet radio connection. The term "Bulletin Board System" itself is a reference to the traditional cork-and-pin bulletin board often found in entrances of supermarkets, schools, libraries or other public areas where people can post messages, advertisements, or community news. During their heyday from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s, most BBSes were run as a hobby free of charge by the system operator (or "SysOp"), while other BBSes charged their users a subscription fee for access, or were operated by a business as a means of supporting their customers. Bulletin Board Systems were in many ways a precursor to the modern form of the World Wide Web and other aspects of the Internet.
Early BBSes were often a local phenomenon, as one had to dial into a BBS with a phone line and would have to pay additional long distance charges for a BBS out of the local calling area. Thus, many users of a given BBS usually lived in the same area, and activities such as BBS Meets or Get Togethers, where everyone from the board would gather and meet face to face, were common. As the use of the Internet became more widespread in the mid to late 1990s, traditional BBSes rapidly faded in popularity. Today, Internet forums occupy much of the same social and technological space as BBSes did, and the term BBS is often used to refer to any online forum or message board.
Although BBSing survives only as a niche hobby in most parts of the world, it is still an extremely popular form of communication for Taiwanese youth (see PTT Bulletin Board System). Most BBSes are now accessible over telnet and typically offer free email accounts, FTP services, IRC chat and all of the protocols commonly used on the Internet.