|Has the rapidly spreading use of the highly publicized
Internet sounded the death call for the Bulletin Board Systems once favored
by so many users? Has the Internet chat rooms and File Transfer Protocols
(FTP) systems prepared a funeral for the non-net connected systems?
I would argue that the BBS will exist for many more years because they serve as a very useful addition to the Internet, or vice versa. As an example, let's think about downloading a file from a server company - a file about 5 Megabytes in size.
If the file is on the BBS, a simple key push/mouse click is all that is necessary to start the download and it proceeds as fast as the two modems will allow.
If the file is on the Internet somewhere, you must go through your server to the host server, identify the file, initiate the download, and then wait for the two servers to synchronize and start sending you the file. Both servers rapidly alternate between you and other users, so the flow of data is not constant. Time passes - the file is almost finished - when a server goes down. Sorry about that © try again. By the way, a 14.4 modem will take up to three hours to download either Netscape or Microsoft Explorer from the Internet versus about 35 minutes to get it from the BBS.
The vast amount of files on the Alamo PC Organizations BBS are available for the users without going through an elaborate process - just dial the BBS, go to the files area, select the file or files you want to download - and do it.
Another feature is the message area on the BBS. You can "talk" with people interested in the topics that are covered in the area of the BBS you are in. So long as you don't USE ALL CAP'S you'll find everyone is interested in helping you and talking to you. The board will have a personality of its own and that can make things fun.
Some BBS systems have been running for more than 15 years - they went from the Commodore or Atari or Tandy to the current PC or Mac but the people still use it and the SysOp is still there - chatting away with the users. Some sponsor pizza parties or picnics where those that want to can put faces to names - others remain completely anonymous.
Yes, you will have to learn how to use the terminal program you got with your modem to use the BBS. Yes - it is a bit of a learning process, but elsewhere in this magazine, you will find a help committee and other information to help you download files and to leave messages with others. Of course, you had to learn how to navigate the Internet also - but the BBS is much easier, especially for the novice computer user.
There is a place for both systems and I hope that the BBS will be around for a long time to fill the gap that just can't be filled by the Internet.
Joe Barth is chairman of the Alamo PC BBS Committee.