Ham Radio, the old school BBS, Echomail and How the Past can be part of the Future

Ham Radio, the old school BBS, Echomail and How the Past can be part of the Future

I am going to guess that if you are less than a certain age in terms of how long you have been on the internet, that you may be the most comfortable with using a browser to access remote content?

A lot of us won’t even remember that there is much more to the WWW (World Wide Web) than http and https, or that these are HyperText Transfer Protocol (Secure). (See: https://infogalactic.com/info/Hypertext_Transfer_Protocol and https://infogalactic.com/info/HTTPS )

Unless we have something techy in our background we might be a bit sketchy on what is telnet ( https://infogalactic.com/info/Telnet) or ssh (https://infogalactic.com/info/Secure_Shell) – or even if you are using a windows machine how to get a command window open ( or all the way you can get to on – see https://www.digitalcitizen.life/open-cmd/ ).

Facing screens with increasing higher resolution, depth of colors and features we may not always remember ANSI displays and ASCII limited character sets for screen “art” ( https://infogalactic.com/info/ASCII , https://infogalactic.com/info/ASCII_art and https://infogalactic.com/info/ANSI_art )

Or before we had Groups.io, Yahoo Groups, or Reflectors, how we used the EchoMail part of FidoNet (https://infogalactic.com/info/FidoNet#Echomail and https://infogalactic.com/info/FidoNet ) to share information across the country and around the world.

Perhaps you haven’t heard the squeal of a modem navigating a connection https://youtu.be/ckc6XSSh52w?t=36 – – back in the day mine was USRobotic Courier HST v34 (https://infogalactic.com/info/USRobotics)

Back in day I ran a FidoNet node 1:154/110 and node 1:154/154, shutting them down thirty years ago in 1991. The exact start is a bit hazy, as I had been running variants from England since 1986 and had first experimented as a private node and point stateside from 1988 on. Officially I had a public facing FidoNet system running Opus-CBCS from 1989 to 1991.

Then a series of house moves, an expanding family and my own planes filled up my time. I had also had my fill of BBS trolls who basically polluted the BBS every time the snuck on, thinking it funny to be juvenile uploading nasty pictures and pirate software, or calling everyone bad names in every forum they found a way to access. With the way officialdom was cracking down by holding system operators (Sysops) responsible, I wasn’t having it. So “SPOT BBS” (Node lists said “Spot, Up the Road” but the board itself said SPOT BBS) was shut down.

One of the worst trolls has since passed on, a couple years back. I was surprised to read in his obituary that he had found religion and really gotten right with the people is his world. A good reminder to never ever give up on people.

So the current research is investigating what future this old school technology can offer ham radio, and in the process revisit the BBS scene a little bit.

EchoMail has become used by a lot of different parent networks beside FidoNet. Modems are still used but mostly boards have a Telnet or ssh connection capability.

Back in the day Opus-CBCS ( https://www.landley.net/history/mirror/8bits/bbs/opushist.html ) ran on my Columbia VC-1600 portable computer ( https://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?st=1&c=889 ), running MS-DOS ( https://infogalactic.com/info/MS-DOS ) on a V30 chip (like an IBM PC XT but aftermarket – https://infogalactic.com/info/NEC_V20#V30 ) with a puny hard drive.

I am recreating some of the feel of the original system using MysticBBS  ( http://www.mysticbbs.com/ ) on a Raspberry Pi 4b ( https://infogalactic.com/info/Raspberry_Pi ) with an external SSD for storage.  As not all SSDs are equal in the Raspberry Pi world, I am temporarily running a i3 nettop with Win10 while I wait for the new SSD to arrive).

Built on the FidoNet pattern there are now many “networks” of EchoMail, and the first one I have set up with is fsxNet (Fun Simple eXperimental Net – https://fsxnet.nz/about/ ) where SPOT BBS (SPOT is “Someone Playing On Transistors and is the legacy name) of 21:1/224  (which breaks down as 21=fsxNet, 1=that I will be under the first hub, and 224 being the unique number for SPOT BBS).

Currently the test version on the i3 nettop box is running and accessible within my home LAN via Telnet and ssh.  I need to program our main router to make the system available to the outside world and later get everything back up on the Raspberry Pi.

When up I expect that the address for SPOT BBS via Telnet and ssh will be spotbbs.k9zw.com

SPOT BBS is not going to offer the games that some of the BBS systems feature.  I wasn’t much for spending too much time on these games back in the day, and there are some awesome implementations of these retro-games already up & out there.  Instead my focus will be exploring how BBS legacy technology can support Ham Radio.

There are couple plug-in ham radio “doors” available.  A BBS Door is the interface from the BBS to other programs ( https://infogalactic.com/info/BBS_door ).  I may plug these ham radio doors into the BBS.

I’ve also figured a way to use the BBS to help interface shack hardware with the outside world, in simple ways.  First investigations suggest that a 240ms latency each way is par for the course, so the technology lends itself to switching type functions – say “turn up the heat” on a yes/no basis  – rather than something with more immediate feedback needs.

The natural advantages of message areas and file areas may help with station documentation.

Once things are up I’ll put out an invite to check it out.



[Edited to fixed some missing URL links and correct the worst standout typos – 07MAY21]


Tagged , ,

2 thoughts on “Ham Radio, the old school BBS, Echomail and How the Past can be part of the Future

  1. Nice nostalgia! I, too, went down the wave area network building back in 1983, available in 60 countries. See this document… https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/089443938500300202

    • Dave says:

      I recently saw a bbs at themidnightcafe.ddns.net and they also have Ham Radio information as well as the door you may be talking about. His bbs is in the process of being restored from a brutal hard drive crash but it is up and running now and worth checking out since you may find knowing him to be of value to you both.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: