Remembering the old school dial-up BBS

All this packet radio progressing around the place reminds me of a time long ago, pre-Internet where dial-up BBSs became the new thing in town. Back then I had a BBC Micro and a modem that ran at two speeds – I forget which now (will edit later!) and I persuaded my mum to get BT in to fit a socket rather than the hard-wired phone we had then. This let me plug the modem in. I used to use a BBS called ‘More Summer Wine’ plus one other but I forgot the name. Much of the activity back then is lost in the mist of time (or rather I just can’t remember) but sending and receiving mail was fun. BBS systems were all a part of the wider FidoNet. Mail would be routed between the various BBS systems, many of which only had the one telephone line and so would be inaccessible while that was happening. Indeed, they were mostly single user anyway, although if the sysop was there you could message them via the console of the BBS which was probably sitting in someone’s bedroom. I am reminded of the many times I would set the BBC and modem up on the hall floor because we only had the one telephone socket. In fact, it would be quite some time between then and when we finally got broadband Internet which for us was not until the later 1990s in our new home.

During that time and working in academia I had routine access to networks and mail and so interest in the BBS systems dwindled. There was a time before the winder Internet became available where we could gain network access to remote systems, all typically mini- or mainframe computers. One such system ran a MUD – Multi-user Dungeons and Dragons – another angle to remote access but this time for gaming rather than BBS. That provided an introduction to online chatrooms because the MUD we used to play on had that feature. One could not only progress through the game but also exchange messages online, the latter becoming the wanted feature vice the game itself.

And here we are. I was never involved in packet radio when it first came to be, but now it has reminded me a lot of those old days of the dial-up BBS.

And FidoNet? It is still there



Made some useful progress on packet radio today. I managed to access a node in Scotland and one near the south coast on 40m, 300 baud. This was using QtSoundModem on the Linux box connected to the FT450D via a Signalink, fed into the random length wire in the loft. Access was via EasyTerm running on the Windows PC at first, but then I managed to compile QtTermTCP so ran that on the Linux box instead. A bit of fun but it proves the possibility of using 40m to interconnect where there is currently no VHF or UHF paths here.

Fingers crossed once I get some wire and metal in the air things will only improve.

Packet progress…

My second NinoTNC is built. The parts came today from Mouser in a huge box. I need to adjust the case a little to make it fit nicely but now I have this one I can go mobile and see how access to GB7RVB is. So far, no-one has connected (and yes, the antenna is still in the loft!)

I did find a TNC program for the Mac called KISSet which works fine once I remembered to put my callsign in! I wondered why it was sending data and GB7RVB’s TNC was receiving – no callsign. Twit. It worked fine after that.

Packet mailbox NoV

I now have a NoV for GB7RVB, a packet mailbox on 144.950MHz. It is currently set for AFSK AX25 at 1200 baud, though may move to more modern IL2P 4800 baud after trials.

It is located here in IO93eu and I would be interested in reports if anyone manages to connect to it. The only service currently enabled is local chat. Early days… it’s a bit of a backwater here with no packet and hardly any APRS activity. Maybe this will start it as there are moves elsewhere to build up a national packet network. If one or two other nodes pop up between here and the emerging networks we could make links.

If you do not have a hardware TNC it is possible to use software, for example I have successfully used QtSoundModem to drive a Signalink and my FT817, and QtTermTCP to connect via AGW to the modem, with the FT817 set to 144.950 and packet mode.

GB7RVB is currently based on the LinBPQ package and runs on a Raspberry Pi 3B, with a NinoTNC (see my earlier post about having built that). It is currently driving an FTM100 set for 5W but will be using a Tait TM8110 once the data lead arrives in a few days.



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