Award-Winning Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, Forever Magazine, The Best Science Fiction of the Year, and More

A piece of my past has become un-notable

In a time before the internet was a household name or even widely available at most universities, there were these beasts called Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) that ran on people’s home computers. You’d call one up via modem (how many people here remember 300 baud? 1200 baud? 2400 baud?) and only one person could use it at a time. To put it very simply, it was a world of a million little disconnected internets. People emailed, shared files, had message boards, flame wars, etc… all on a very local level.

While I was in college in the mid-1980s, I started a software company called 2AM Associates. (The name came from the average time the programmers went to sleep. I was on the far end of the curve at 3AM.)  Our one product was 2AM-BBS and at its peak there were more people using it than I could keep track of. A large number of these customers were in NJ, but I was in touch with people from as far away as Malta. We didn’t make much more than pizza money (it was shareware), but it was something I loved doing. By the late 1990’s, the internet was killing the BBS community. It was small town vs big city and we lost.

I met some of the best people through the 2AM. Heck, I married one of the sysops. I’m still in touch with a few, some have died, and others I just can’t find despite my best efforts.

So why this trip down memory lane?

Wikipedia once had an entry for 2AM-BBS. It was there for quite some time and now I see that someone deleted it back in January because they didn’t think it was notable anymore.



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  1. I still use two BBSes regularly and that’s how I stay in touch with my friends. My husband and I dated long-distance at first using a BBS… in 2003. I check into ISCABBS every now and then too.

    • Internet BBS or dial-up? I’m a dial-up purist/snob. 🙂

      • Current ones are internet. I believe the old one could be accessed either way, but I’m not sure. I always did it by internet.

        • I’ve had a few people try to get me to bring back my old system as an internet board, but I just don’t think it would be the same. Part of the charm for me was that it was small town. I’m not sure why it makes a difference though… I’m on lots of web-based forums.

  2. Ah, the War on Knowledge continues, victory will be ours any day now…

    • I still miss the sound of an electronic handshake.

      I didn’t know that Wikipedia deletes things – sort of goes against the idea of a massive repository of all things.

      • Yeah, that sound brings back a lot of memories for me. In a moment of boredom, a few of us decided to learn how to make the appropriate noises to establish a proper 300 and 1200 baud connection.

        • Makes me think of that skit on Sesame Street with the Yip Yip aliens finging the phone “Brrrrrrrrring” “Yip Yip Yip” “Brrrrrrring”. 🙂

  3. Wikipedia spends too much time deleting ‘non-notable’ stuff.

    BTW I used to run a point off Gamma Istari here in Perth. I was using Binkleyterm on an Atari ST, and the funniest thing about fidonet wasn’t the hours you spent downloading stuff, it was the fact that 99.99% of the mail you downloaded & indexed was for other people!

    • At several points, we considered implementing the fido protocols. It usually devolved into a discussion over how poorly designed and badly documented it was. Security certainly wasn’t a concern of theirs. 🙂

      • Somewhere I still have a phone book with numbers for the dozen or so BBSs I used to dial every single night. I still rag a couple of contacts of mine about a Tradewar stunt I pulled which resulted in the annihilation of three other players’ fleets 😉

  4. That fifteen seconds of fame is fleeting, isn’t it?

    Completely off-topic, you still haven’t cashed the check I gave you after buying books at Boskone. Shall I write another?

    • Well, at least they haven’t struck down Clarkesworld Magazine yet. 🙂

      Check? Huh… have to see why that wasn’t deposited.

  5. Gods. It is always interesting to meet folks that used to run boards from way back when.

    I still remember the fact that I had scripted an easy way to have threaded messages between networked boards for a software design that didn’t usually carry it. It required every BBS in the network to have the same software patch, which given the way bbses were designed back then was a rare option without bugs.

    Wikipedia picks more and more things to become non-notable that I’ve begun to found them non-notable and stick to the focused wikis out there now.

    • That must have been fun to coordinate. What software did you work with?

      • It was I believe WW4. And I remember we had jury-rigged in a couple of other network types from other board types with some really weird front-end patches to the software. It was amazing the thing you could do (or in this case had to do to make things work.) Probably made for great training in my various jobs over the years as software and network support.

        • WWIV was one of the few competitor’s of ours that I thought was doing interesting things and heading in a good direction.

          Yeah, I feel the same. Working on 2AM was the best education I could have had and that’s speaking as a computer science major. Nothing compares. After I started working for the university, I made sure that project-based learning became part of my student employees experience there. I like to think it made a difference.

  6. Wayback machine

    Sorry I’m getting in on this discussion a wee bit late . . . Anyhow, using the Wayback Machines I tracked down the original entry for the 2AM-BBS that was on Wikipedia; it’s not formatted, but you could take the data, and using Wikip’s formatting requirements, simply reenter it. Keep a hardcopy of all the text and formatting, and if/when they delete it again, just upload the sucker once more. Here’s the Wayback Machine link:

    Have fun!
    – marty

    • Re: Wayback machine

      Thanks, but wikipedia frowns on entering information about yourself or something you worked on. They’d likely delete it even faster this time.

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  8. I remember my 2am-bbs based bbs that I ran from my teenage line during high school in the late 80s. Someone brought up BBSes on Facebook and a search turned up this old blog post.

    I wish you well Neal. Thanks for the memories.

  9. Been a long time! Hope you’re doing well and thanks for dropping by.

  10. James

    I ran a 2am-bbs and I can remember dialing into yours Neil! My friend and I had it running on a 286. I loved drawing the menus in ascreen. I remember dialing in at 1200 or 2400 baud. We were based in Chatham and I think your BBS was Drew Underground? Those were the days..

    • Hi James! Yeah, I ran the Underground until I graduated from Drew and then started “The Conspiracy Theory” as the new home of 2AM. I’m blanking on the name of yours. Too many years have passed. I still have the old 2AM records in a box upstairs though.

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