BBS: The Documentary

Sep 11, 2005

Finally got around to watching the first disc of BBS: The Documentary. I ordered it when it came out, got all excited about it, and then let it languish unopened in my basement for weeks.

What a strange little piece of history, and all the more strange because I lived through a chunk of it and had somehow managed to almost completely forget about it. When I ordered the discs, I went digging around the net to see if I could find out anything about the old Seattle-area boards I used to call, particularly any of the old Citadels.

Much to my surprise, there was still one running (Slumberland BBS), and it had been hooked up to the Internet via telnet. I logged in as a new user, using the handle I used when I was fourteen, and was staggered to find that there were some people on there who I remembered, and that they remembered me too.

The BBS was such a different kind of online community. I mean, it had a lot of the same sorts of issues, what with relative anonymity and 12-year-olds running rampant, but it had a much more personal feel, much more of a sense of place. If you were logged in to a BBS, nobody else could log in until you disconnected — you had it all to yourself. On the other hand, the sysop could sit at the console and watch everything you were typing.

It was so much more concrete, somehow. Obviously there are enormous advantages to being able to connect to any node on the Internet simultaneously with anyone else who feels like connecting to that node, but there was something nice about that tangibility.

There are so many groups and businesses trying so hard these days to build communities on the Web, and there's so much money being channeled into solving that problem. I wonder what lessons could be learned from the BBS model?


If you liked this, you're welcome to read more of my blatherings.