From the October 24, 1997 ComputorEdge (Issue 1543)
By Jim Trageser
I think I mentioned recently that I'd, well, misplaced a bunch of e-mail from readers, e-mail I rediscovered while setting up a new computer.
Among them was a letter from Ben Greenberg giving his thoughts on why he gave up a BBS for the Web:
"I am the previous sysop of the Free-Thinker BBS. I closed down the BBS several months ago, and now make Web pages. Several things influenced my change. The first was the actual cost of owning a BBS compared to a Web page.
"To own a BBS, you must upgrade your computer, buy a dedicated phone line, ... register programs, etc. The cost of owning a Web page is considerably less; in fact, it can be free. If you want, a person can use a computer at a library to access the Internet, and make a page using some of the free services such as Geocities (www.geocities.com) or Angelfire (www.angelfire.com). Or, if you wish, you can pay for Internet access at home, and some Internet service providers include a Web page."
"To me, a BBS is the way of the past and the Internet is the BBS for the future."
Ben's letter is typical of much of the e-mail I get; frustration with old ways lead to complete abandonment of them for the new.
But I don't know that the BBS is the way of the past; for instance, ANDROS BBS (619/233-0053) has been going for almost four and a half years. It's secret to success has been finding a niche and serving it. For Andros, that niche is serving as a social club for San Diego's gay community. A BBS provides a local focus the Web just can't.
Andros BBS has 27 lines, all at 14.4 kbps or up, and is a subscription board with a free trial period. It s a singles, dating-type BBS, only aimed at the gay instead of straight community. As with most BBSs, you need to show proof of age before you can access any of the adult areas although they are advertised for all the world to see; bit tacky, that. By the time it asks if you re 18 and warns that if not, you should hang up, you ve already read the promotion for the hot chat and naked celebrities.
In an interesting twist and one that promises better financial security for BBSs if it catches on there are paid ads on Andros during log-in. Text-only, but still ads. There is a multi-subject trivia game, and a few dozen celebrity photos. Nineteen conversation subs are available to visitors, and another five for subscribers. The general conversation area was very busy dozens of messages posted within the last two days.
To be honest, I found the board a bit difficult to navigate. It was confusing at times, although hitting a ? at any prompt brought help. Andros is running IDK Bulletron software, with which I m not familiar. The hot keys are different from those on most other systems, and you ll need to be patient in exploring the board.
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