It's all spinning wheels and self-doubt until the first pot of coffee.

Synchronet BBS Software, Tidal Pools, and On-Ramps

Synchronet Bulletin Board System Software is a free software package that can turn your personal computer into your own custom online service supporting multiple simultaneous users with hierarchical message and file areas, multi-user chat, and the ever-popular BBS door games.


In November of 1999, the author found a renewed interest in further developing Synchronet, specifically for the Internet community, embracing and integrating standard Internet protocols such as Telnet, FTP, SMTP, POP3, IRC, NNTP, and HTTP. Synchronet has since been substantially redesigned as an Internet-only BBS package for Win32 and Unix-x86 platforms and is an Open Source project under continuous development.
Source: Synchronet BBS Software

This software deserves so much more attention. It's like an old-school BBS, complete with ASCII/ANSI menu screens and everything, but it's been modernized: It offers a slew of Internet protocols integrated with the message bases and file areas. It's got an HTTP daemon with server-side JavaScript. It works on Win32 and various Unix platforms. Everything above is true. And it's open source.

In the 90's, I would have expected software like this to be at the core of a startup company stuffed with superfluous and overpaid code monkeys. It would have turned into an Enterprise Application Server or Intranet Knowledge Management Solution-- a mini Domino or Lotus Notes. And, in fact, I seem to remember seeing a few old-school BBS packages get mutated and gigantified by the dot-com radiation in this way.

I keep meaning to get a Synchronet BBS up and keep it up, and maybe get a few interested users logging in, if only for the retro-gaming experience for things like Trade Wars, Barrent Realms Elite, Legend of the Red Dragon, Global War, and anything else I can find.

I really miss the tidal-pool effect BBSes had back in the day, when in my area they were the first and best gateways to the Internet. Direct SLIP and PPP access to the net were rare things still and, before the web took off, Usenet and IRC were some of the best things around. But, anyone who wanted to get the the net had to wander through the local BBS first.

It was really neat to see the mish-mash of people all drawn together by geographic areas denoted by telco area codes. The degree of Aspergers affliction and just plain dysfunctional nerdity gradually decreased as sisters and friends-of-sisters were introduced to terminal programs and teleconference. It was sad to see all of this gradually die off as more and more callers came in via SLIP/PPP dialers and headed straight for the information superhighway on-ramps. All the gift shops closed up and no one showed up in the café anymore.


But, at least Finland isn't a long distance call these days.


Archived Comments

  • Back in "the day" I ran a BBS dedicated to RPG gaming and programming, called "The Wyrm's Byte". We had cool ansi-graphic art. We had doors games. Trade Wars, BRE, and some others. We had a download section but not much was on it. And we ran Fidonet (sort of like Usenet but using a different protocol and shared among BBSes), Vnet (RPG-oriented net that used Fido technology), and CandyNet (also RPG-centric net that used Fido tech). This was a great hobby, I had lots of fun. But, it seems like in this day and age, I'd rather just run a web site than try to do a full fledged BBS. What could I really offer using BBS software that I can't do on a website? Other than maybe doors games, but I'd rather play World of Warcraft or Half-Life 2 multi than those.
  • Synchronet is easy peasy, i'm currently running it, and i love the thing.. :)