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Online San Diego

From the March 14, 1997 ComputorEdge (Issue 1511)

By Jim Trageser

Okay, so I was wrong. There. It's out. I admit it.

A couple columns back, in mourning the decline of BBSs, I wrote that the Web had the advantage of allowing a user to visit thousands of sites with a single phone call (to an Internet service provider). In error, I then said that to visit a similar number of BBSs would take thousands of phone calls.

But, as has been pointed out to me, many BBSs are on the 'Net, meaning with a single phone call, you can telnet to a goodly portion of them. And, in fact, you could telnet to BBSs even before the Web had been thought of.

Not only that, but many BBSs software packages now allow sysops to serve as primary Internet providers themselves, giving their users PPP accounts – meaning you call your local BBS and can access the Web, ftp, telnet, a POP e-mail account, or anything else you might want to do on the 'Net.

Of course, none of this is cheap, and any BBS sysop who's offering all that isn't likely to be giving it away. But it does illustrate that the panic scenarios about the Web meaning the end of the BBS are vastly overblown – even by columnists who ought to know better.

And so, another BBS review:

Politically Incorrect BBS

It's been awhile since I used any dial-up BBS other than the San Diego Computer Society's. And so it was a bit weird going through the new-user log-in procedures (what is my mother's maiden name?) of a BBS. But Wildcat! v. 4.11 is a nice improvement and upgrade over the earlier versions (although it is apparently not the latest version of Wildcat!, which reportedly supports a proprietary graphical interface in addition to ANSI menus, and which we'll review shortly). It supports up to 28.8 bps modems, has full ANSI graphics (or just VT-100, if that's all you have), and is easy to navigate.

True to his commitment to using his BBS to further online communicatinos, sysop Bob Beller offers free Internet e-mail to all verified users; he also offers 436 conversation subs, the vast majority of which are netted – either USENET (Internet), Wildnet, FidoNet or some I'm not familiar with, such as Publius and IntroNet. (Note to newbies: FidoNet is different from the USENET in that its message base is moved over networks composed of BBSs, rather than the mainframes that comprise the backbone of the Internet.) Topics range from wrestling to soap operas, home brew beer to ham radio. Beller carries several of the sdnet (San Diego Network) conferences off the USENET, as well as some of the alt conferences. There are also conferences from the locally oriented NET202. The FidoNet conferences seemed pretty busy, at least the Fido_NFL conference was, with several hundred messages over the past week.

There are 10 games online, including the ubiquitous gambling games (slots, craps, Monte Carlo, hi-lo), Monopoly and a phrase word game.

Despite Beller's focus on the messages area, the files area still has 27 sub areas, including Windows, OS/2, DOS, Macintosh and Win 95. There is a Doom area with different episodes, The Win 95 area is pretty slim pickins, though. The DOS games area is fairly well-stocked, however, with Duke Nukem, Disney's Aladdin, and other popular shareware games from Apogee.

Note that this is a free BBS; if you're subscribing to a commercial service such as AOL or CompuServe just to get e-mail, you may want to consider calling the Politically Incorrect BBS, particularly if it's not a toll call for you. (And if you like the board and decide to stay, do the right thing and send Bob some of that money you're currently sending the suits at AOL or CompuServe.)