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Duluth-Area BBS

Recently, I stumbled on this website, which lists BBS numbers that existed in the 218 area code in the 80s and 90s. The BBS or bulletin board system was a precursor to web forums. People usually used BBSs that were physically in the same area as they were, since their computer would actually have to call the BBS and would incur long-distance charges just like any other landline phone call.

I never used a BBS, but I remember other kids talking about them furtively in my computer programming class in 8th grade. Sadly, my trusty VIC-20 lacked a modem.

Did anyone here use these or other local BBSs, or better yet did anyone actually run one? If so, please nerd out in the comments.

28 Comment(s)

  1. I never used an actual dial-up BBS, but I did have an account on the 1990′s college BBS juggernaut ISCA that was run out of UIowa.

    That was after the advent of telnet, though.

    I still have friends from ISCA that I’ve never met in RL, and that was 20 years ago. Wacky.

    jessige | Mar 23, 2012 | New Comment
  2. I remember using Big Top, Captain’s Table and the Basement BBS. I didn’t spend a lot of time- mostly perused the classified sections as I recall.

    TimK | Mar 23, 2012 | New Comment
  3. Aw man! TBNT, Wormhole, Wizard’s Tower (partially run by Sheldon Aubut), Esko BBS (which specialized in really crappy porn) and the one a buddy of mine and I ran, Joe’s Cafe. There was also one that specialized in classifieds and had a terminal or two at Miller Hill Mall but I forget the name.

    Jake | Mar 23, 2012 | New Comment
  4. Back in the cities my boy scout troop had a BBS where we played text based space RPG games. On a side note that is the nerdiest thing I have ever said.

    Muns | Mar 23, 2012 | New Comment
  5. I used to dial into several local BBSes. Mostly I played the door games. (Door games were text-based video games that were designed to be played on BBSes; click the link for more info.) BRE (Barren Realms Elite) and LORD (Legend of the Red Dragon) were my favorites, though I also played SRE (Solar Realms Elite) and a few others on occasion.

    Ships 2 was one of my favorite BBSes. Another favorite was one run by a guy called Intager1, but I don’t recall its name. Shipwreck, Wizard’s Tower, Spirit Valley, and Captain’s Table all sound familiar, so I probably tried them as well.

    I uploaded Slackware Linux to one local BBS. I remember it took me about a week to download it from the Internet and several days to upload it.

    I installed BBS software on my computer and did a little configuration of it, such as drawing an ASCII art login screen and installing some door games, but I never actually ran a BBS—I think I only had one friend dial in to try it.

    Some of the BBSes had connections to other BBSes or to the Internet. I remember playing BRE or SRE on one where players from other BBSes would occasionally attack us, and I think another local BBS supported sending email to Internet recipients.

    Lithis | Mar 23, 2012 | New Comment
  6. Legend of the Red Dragon!

    Jake | Mar 23, 2012 | New Comment
  7. The one we played was “Trade Wars.”

    It was great, the WOW of it’s time.

    Muns | Mar 23, 2012 | New Comment
  8. Slightly off-topic but related:

    In the late 1970s, my Dad worked for Control Data, a mainframe computer company based in Bloomington. He would bring home a briefcase-type thing, hook up our land-line phone to it, and communicate — somehow — with other employees. It seemed like magic.

    vicarious | Mar 23, 2012 | New Comment
  9. Hi! I ran the Wormhole in my basement (with some big help from friends). I was in high school and things deteriorated pretty quickly as we left for college in the fall of ’96.

    We still have the board data and all the ANSIs (some you can find here .

    “218″ had a great BBS scene. I miss those days. We had meetups at the Incline Station and Godfather’s Pizza.

    “Doors” were a lot of fun. I remember Ships’, Aladdin’s Castle, and Kerowyn’s Haven having some of the best games. BRE, SRE, LORD.

    The Wormhole was SysOp’d by myself (Starman), Einstein, and Ziggy. Echo would help out as well.

    We ran PegaSys software (based on WWIV), and we were the ‘Development HQ’ because Einstein traded for the source code (and “rights”?) for a couple hard drives. Maybe he will chime in later about that. (Thanks, Godking or whoever did the trade).

    If anyone is nerdy enough to want to actually watch a movie about BBSes, there is a documentary that is about 10 hours long by Jason Scott that is totally worth checking out. You can probably find it on the Internets.

    andy68916 | Mar 23, 2012 | New Comment
  10. I swear there was a really old PDD post about area Bulletin Boards.

    adam | Mar 23, 2012 | New Comment
  11. Adam, you’re right. In fact, Andy from the Wormhole made the post, and it included all the information in my post and more. Doh! Still, it’s fun to revisit.

    Barrett Chase | Mar 23, 2012 | New Comment
  12. Does anyone remember a BBS named Salty’s? The name rings a bell, but I can’t find any reference to it online.

    Also, does anyone remember what BBS Intager1 ran?

    I think I played Trade Wars once or twice, but I don’t remember why I didn’t continue playing it. Perhaps the BBSes I most frequented didn’t have it. I also remember playing Usurper a few times, which I enjoyed. I don’t think it was very popular, though. The people who made BRE and SRE also made Falcon’s Eye, but it wasn’t nearly as common as BRE or SRE. There was also a somewhat popular game about being a patient in a mental institution, which I think might be Lunatix?

    Lithis | Mar 23, 2012 | New Comment
  13. I was into BBS in the 1980s. Spirit Valley had a good one. I also remember going to meetings at Godfather’s. My parents hated BBS because it tied up the phone for hours. Did anyone ever go on Q Link?

    dtown | Mar 24, 2012 | New Comment
  14. I started on the twin cities BBS scene, moved back to Duluth and used a few of these. Still have the T-shirt. :) on front, list of Bulletin boards on back.

    Why no one ever set up a Citadel up here is beyond me.

    kokigami | Mar 24, 2012 | New Comment
  15. LORD! UMD students were still playing that as recent as 2003.

    Sjixxxy | Mar 24, 2012 | New Comment
  16. Hey, Starman. Good to hear from you again. We had a wicked 1 on 1 over the phone line on DOOM back in 1995 or so. You were a worthy freakin’ adversary, and had a much better sense of humor than the knobs on Xbox Live these days. Anyway, see you around.


    Chickonen | Mar 27, 2012 | New Comment
  17. I remember many of the Duluth/218 BBS’s and the annual parties and I have a T-shirt too. The games, the postings. Kerowyn’s Haven, Bigtop, Info central, TBNT, etc. “- Mellow”

    lorax73 | Mar 28, 2012 | New Comment
  18. Whoa… Nimrod, Mellow, Starman! It’s a BBS meetup!

    And who here remembers Nirvana?

    I remember the days of college in the schools classes, where one of the most useful tools was a dialup into UMD just to telnet off to other BBS’s without L/D.

    Speaking of without L/D.. “1-950-0837 6044X” If you remember this, well, then I hope things turned out well for you!

    Those bbs’s were fun. After growing up into an adult job doing network admin, I had to dust off my AT commands for a 56k dial up modem that I swore I’d never see the likes of again!


    drewtom | Mar 29, 2012 | New Comment
  19. Nimrod: Funny thing is, I remember that game of Doom we played very well. You were better than me that day, but I like to think it was because you knew the map better. :) But I think you used a mouse which made you really quick.

    Mellow: Good to see you on here! I remember you always signed your posts m e l l o w or something similar.

    I remember Nirvana and recognize your name, CornChops.

    andy68916 | Mar 31, 2012 | New Comment
  20. I’m a bit late to this thread … anyways, I remember Balth’s(?) Beastiary, Info Central, BigTop, Spirit Valley… started on my Apple 2c with a 1200 baud modem back in the day. Went to a couple meetups at Godfather’s on London Road. I think my alias was FoxFire IIRC.

    StrayPointer | Apr 3, 2012 | New Comment
  21. Oh wow, glad I have kept monitoring this thread. I totally remember Mellow. I think I also remember that he signed it m e l l o w or something, and I could swear it was in a pastel color on some of those early C64 boards like The Captain’s Table or similar. Funny, for a little while there Commodore boards had the richest graphics around. More detail than ANSI even, I’d venture to guess. I liked that, but I also liked dialing in to Spirit Valley, where the no nonsense ASCII pages were quick and snappy. I definitely remember a FoxFire on Spirit Valley. There was great discussion on that board.

    Those C64 boards though, that was the gateway for me. Does anyone remember “the wall” that you would see and post on at every login, but only once? Great stuff on those.

    Hahah, Starman, hilarious that you remember that as well. This is going to turn in to Doom Rashomon, and I think I’m okay with that, but I remember not recognizing the mouse and I always played Doom with the keyboard only. To this day no idea how I did that. You were the first player I encountered who used a mouse to play, and I thought it was crazy at the time. The 2D plane made all the difference with Doom, but I still can’t imagine how using the keyboard for that ever made any sense. I dunno. I just remember that the day I finally figured out how to get my modem’s data compression and error correction disabled was one of the happiest days of my life.

    It’s funny, in a lot of ways it was a technological heyday. Like a constellation of PDDs shining over Duluth. Interesting that what was generally regarded as a nerdy and even deviant activity then has become ubiquitous today.

    I’m enjoying fantasies of putting a Wildcat! board up as a TCP/IP service. Maybe call it or something. Dust off the old LORD license and see what happens.


    Chickonen | Apr 4, 2012 | New Comment
  22. Also, CornChops mentioning the old telnet hole on UMD’s dialup line brought me way back. I would not have had the opportunity to use the internet until like 10 years after I did if that loophole hadn’t existed.

    Especially after they closed that, internet access was a coveted thing for me and a lot of people I knew. If you could get a password from a student (most of them didn’t care about using their own internet access) you were golden. But in a vast majority of cases access would be disrupted by a gentleman who worked for UMD IT who was pretty much the arch-villain of my youth.

    Chickonen | Apr 4, 2012 | New Comment
  23. Before the Internet: The Golden Age of Online Services.

    adam | Apr 6, 2012 | New Comment
  24. I remember dialing into tbnt k haven and the best one — at least the one I spent the most time on — I cannot remember the name, but it was based on Esko and had like 6 lines! He charged for credits but it was pretty damn cool to have a chat room.

    omnih8 | Apr 6, 2012 | New Comment
  25. Here is a Telnet & Dial-Up BBS Guide. It’s the same thing as the 1990s except better doors!

    omnih8 | Apr 6, 2012 | New Comment
  26. omnih8: Was it Inacomp? Or Echelon maybe?

    Nimrod: You didn’t use a mouse? Huh. I don’t think I did, either. I wonder why I thought you did. You were very quick so maybe I just assumed you did.

    andy68916 | Apr 9, 2012 | New Comment
  27. Wow. I ran a search for Kerowyn’s Haven just to see what old information was still out there and I found this post.

    I remember several of the names posted here.

    LORD was one of my favorite games along with LOD, Tradewars, BRE, etc. It was my goal back then to focus on a gaming-focused BBS. Other BBSs were focused on files, chat, etc. and computer gaming has always been one of my primary hobbies. It was interesting being one of the few female sysops back in those days.

    The BBS ran under various software including Renegade, Pegasys and eventually Wildcat once I moved to the cities.

    Kerowyn’s Haven lasted until about ’97. I still have the machines and all of the software though. Detrix, my co-sysop and eventual husband, crafted the last batch of ANSIs. After I graduated from UMD, I moved to the Twin Cities and ran the BBS down here for a few years also until other hobbies took over.

    Even though I’ve moved on to other things, online gaming is still something that I enjoy and probably always will. I’m currently subscribed to SWTOR, but will be moving onto Guild Wars 2 once it goes live.

    Kerowyn | Apr 20, 2012 | New Comment
  28. Yeah for chick sysop! Yeah for SWTOR!!!

    BadCat! | Apr 20, 2012 | New Comment

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