|Volume 2: No. 34|
Boardwatch is the leading magazine for BBS developers and sysops. Jack Rickard is the editor, and provided most of the information below (in his 7/92 issue). He's been publishing since 1987, and active in BBSs for much longer. $36/year in the U.S., or $60 with included online information service. (800) 933-6038.
The number of dial-up BBS services is overwhelming. Dave Fisher's list of OS/2 forums shows about 100 in the U.S. and abroad. (Let me know if you need one in your area.) Another Boardwatch list includes 65 people or BBSs keeping lists of active BBSs. Another Boardwatch list shows 228 information services, including the C.A.R.L. list of 4M books, CTC IEEE database of 20K engineering resumes, Federal Job Information Center opportunity lists, Science Resource Studies' data on the Federal R&D budget, Transnet dictionaries and language translation services, UT Library catalog of 3.5M books, and support groups for everything else.
There are now more than 44K public-access BBSs serving 10M users, according to Jack Rickard. This is up from 3.5K just five years ago. A typical dial-up BBS costs $3K and can support 1 to 8 phone lines. Exec-PC in Elm Grove, WI, the largest U.S. BBS, has 230 lines and nearly as many services as CompuServe. [(414) 789-4210.] Channel 1 in Cambridge, MA, has 85 lines and makes $20K/month from 2,500 calls/day. [(617) 354-3230.] Annual BBS fees are usually $15-$60. A third of BBSs are free and 80% are nonprofit. The companies making BBS software are obviously doing well in this $20M market: Gallacticomm Inc. (Fort Lauderdale, FL); Mustang Software Inc. (Bakersfield, CA); eSoft Inc. (Aurora, CO); and Clark Development Co. (Murray, UT). The phone companies probably make another $700M/year. [Judith Berck, NYT. SJM, 8/9.] Multiline BBSs currently require a dedicated PC for up to 8 lines. Multinode BBSs use a LAN of N+1 PCs to support N lines, and permit greater customization (via software "doors"). Software will soon permit LANs of multiline computers, greatly reducing maintenance and depreciation
Corporate BBSs are growing even faster than public-access ones, with about 120K installations. Such BBSs are used for internal/branch communications and for access to corporate data, policy statements, and minutes of meetings. Many use the same BBS servers as the hobby systems. I'm not sure if LAN groupware products like Lotus Notes are counted.
For internet BBSs, the best commercial product appears to be TEAMate from MMB Development (Manhattan Beach, CA). Telnet to supernet.ans.net to sample an impressive TEAMate BBS for the supercomputer community. The software runs under Unix and comes with documentation and optional training sessions. About $4K + $1K/year for server software supporting 16 simultaneous users. (Discount for nonprofit institutions.) TEAMate is modular, so you can also purchase simpler configurations. (800) 832-6022 or (310) 318-1322
Other commercial Unix products -- currently with dial-up access or email gateways only -- are CocoNet, XChange, Magpie, and WAFFLE. For research/academic/free internet software, check out the Gopher server by telneting to consultant.micro.umn.edu and logging in as gopher. (I think there are also VT100 servers at gopher.uiuc.edu, gopher.uwp.edu, and panda.uiowa.edu.) You can get server and client software by binary-FTPing /Unix/gopher1.02.tar.Z from /pub/gopher on boombox.micro.umn.edu. Gopher is particularly exciting because servers can gateway to Archie, WAIS, WWW, and other internet information services.
But wait, there's more! The CoSy BBS interface is becoming popular for internet distance education and the Teachers' Information Exchange. Telnet to cue.bc.ca and log on as cosy to try the system at UGuelph. (Another is at Virginia Tech, 18.104.22.168, log cosyreg.) Front-end client software is being developed. I'm not sure, but there also seem to be internet connections associated with FreeNet (cleveland.freenet.edu), FreePort Software [Dennis Risen, (email@example.com)], and the Community Information Exchange (22.214.171.124) [Steve Shoemaker (firstname.lastname@example.org)]. A few dial-up BBSs have arranged for telnet connections.
BBS Internet/NREN connectivity is a hot topic at the first ONE BBSCON convention this August 13-16. Hundreds of BBSs will soon communicate with the net, including systems based on UFGATE, uuPCB, FSUUCP, and WAFFLE. Some, including WAFFLE BBSs, already have email connections. A new network email system for PC BBSs is the $125 SEAmail from System Enhancement Associates, Inc. (Clifton, NJ), (201) 473-5153. I've heard that CocoNet may soon support internet access to BBS services, much like TEAMate; ask developer/owner Brian Dear at (619) 456-2002.
Steve Cisler (email@example.com) attended ONE BBSCON, and says that it's going to be an important and successful annual conference supporting a major new industry. (Annual meeting of Fidonet sysops previously folded.) Business uses are beginning to overshadow hobby applications, but both will co-exist. "The BBS world is changing, growing, exploding." [PACS-L, 8/18.]
Client interfaces to Gopher, TEAMate, and other servers are available for Mac, PC, NeXT, Sun, and most other machines. BBS server software is usually more specific. For Macs, you can get Proline, First Class, Hermes, Mansion, Novalink Pro, Sight, Tabby, and Telefinder. (BMUG is switching its BBS to First Class, which it claims is more stable, user-friendly, and operator-friendly than PC-based alternatives. Internet access is promised soon.) OS/2 supports Magnum BBS, Maximus-CBCS, and Multi-Net servers; Windows 3.1 has PowerBBS. Judging from special sessions at ONE BBSCON, the most popular DOS systems are PCBoard, Wildcat!, Major BBS, TBBS, and Searchlight. Other DOS servers include DCI, DLX, Falken, Fido, FSUUCP, GAP, Genesis BBS, InfoHost, Kitten, Maxkhost, Opus-CBCS, Oracomm, Osiris, QuickBBS, RBBS, Sapphire, Spitfire, Synchronet, TAG, Tritel, UFGATE, and WWIV. (Let me know if you need contact info.) These are optimized for different user communities and have very different capabilities.
WAFFLE is a popular shareware BBS, available in both DOS and Unix versions. (XBBS is also shareware, but dated.) WAFFLE source code is even available, for about $120. Darkside International (Mountain View, CA), (408) 245-7726.
If all this is too much for you, there are companies that will implement and manage your public BBS or corporate information service for you: GW Associates (Holliston, MA), (508) 429-6227; On-Line Technologies, P.O. Box 453, Lake Grove, NY 11755-0453; or The Business BBS (Los Angeles, CA), (310) 477-0593.