25 Years of Bulletin Board System

I ran across a Slashdot story today talking about that it is the 25th Anniversary of BBS (Bulletin Board System). Today, when every second guy on the street can access Internet in fast blazing speed, and when all the computers you wish to access are inter-connected on the information highway of Internet, there aren't many people still using the old dull text-based 80x24 BBS service. From some people, The age of BBS has long gong. For me, it is still going strong.

Browsing through the some of the comments on that Slashdot article, I think the readers have not yet realised that BBS is still having a large user base in Asia, especially amongst university students in Taiwan, China and Hong Kong. While the world wide web has really taken over the world, there are still many persisting followers of text-based BBS in Taiwan, where I came from originally. People meet each other through that 80x24 window in 16 ANSI colours, post articles and stories, debate over issues, etc. There are even short stories written using the BBS communities as themes, like the infamous "The First Intimate Touch" (第一次親密的接觸). Even though more and more people are now using the web, especially from the younger generations, but BBS is still long from dead.

I had a late start with bulletin board systems. My first encounter was in 1990 when I was still back in Taiwan. My 7th grade-then classmate would show me how him dialed into local university's public BBS to download files. That was an enlightening experience for me as I never knew that you can actually connect multiple computers together that easily. Later that year I came to Australia, and over here I met another guy from Taiwan who was trying to set up a dial up BBS from his family's garage. We've played around his 2,400 baud modem, and had a few visitors, but eventually it became ill-fated because you just can't compete when all you had was 1 modem line and a 386SX.

Internet might have become a threat to BBS, but at the same time it also brought new users to it, as people can now just 'telnet' into any Internet BBS. It allows more users, more interactivity, and thus bigger community. In 1997 a friend at uni brought me to the BlueSky BBS, an Internet BBS ran by a Taiwanese community in Brisbane. I've been visiting it nearly everyday since, and got to know some of the people (whom I never met in person) through this system. Over the past 6-7 years that system has been up and down for quite a bit, and people have been in and out constantly. Some oldies persisted, but many have changed over the years. It is just hanging there, but long from dead. Recently a lot of overseas students from Taiwan have been visiting this system because of their interest in studying in Australia. Hopefully it will become popular again. Btw, big thanks to Sonny the BlueSky BBS sysadmin who have worked hard to maintain this site...