What's a BBS?

Don't know what a BBS is? "BBS" stands for Bulletin Board System, and BBSes were to computer users in the 80s and early 90s what web message boards and file-download web sites are to Internet users here in the 21st century. BBSes were run out of people's houses, using their own computers and modems and phone lines. People called in to post messages, share information, and make chit-chat with each other.

As callers were usually geographically close to each other (i.e., in the same area code), they occasionally met up in real life to make fools of themselves in public, too. Such meetings were great fun, as you had a chance to put faces to nicknames, to try to figure out if a person's online persona matched their real-life behavior, and to make friends that you might even hang on to for much longer than the life of the BBS itself.

More general info about BBSes can be found at

Memphis BBS History

The standard C-Net login prompt that says 'Enter NEW if you have no account.  Enter your handle.'
The familiar C-Net login prompt.

At any rate, this is a history of a particular few Amiga CNet BBSes in Memphis, Tennessee in the 90s. They're singled out because they're the ones I personally frequented, because there were so few of them (as compared to the number of Wildcat and other PC/clone BBS systems that came and went throughout the period), and because they all pretty much shared the same user base.

Despite that latter detail, they each had their own unique quirks--for instance, Artificial Reality had the busiest non-technical/general message areas, and some of us met a lot of friends there that we're still in contact with today (of course, others faded away, but several have re-appeared long enough to leave a personal update on the user registry). On the other hand, Operator Headgap had the most Amiga software on hand, and has since moved on to be a Mac-oriented web-enabled BBS.

Software Syntax and Eagle's Nest were smaller boards with a similarly smaller subset of callers that were usually already friends in real life. By contrast, Commodore Connection (later Fantasy Land) was the first of the lot to have Fidonet echoes, thus enabling us to yak about trivial, day-to-day nothing with people in far-flung and exotic lands such as Delaware and California </sarcasm> before this whole Internet thing started appearing in everyone's houses.

Some of the distinctive ASCII/ANSI art from each BBS that was recovered and is displayed on these pages came from a few Amiga-formatted Zip disks that Kevin, a.k.a. Disk Handler, sysop of Software Syntax, had made some hard drive backups on in the mid-90's before he wisely (dumbass :-D) ditched the Amiga in question. I recovered things from the disks first by taking a hex-editor to raw dumps of the contents of the three disks (288MB of junk in total), and then by just looking at the damn files themselves once I figured out a way to read them proper (thanks to instruction recieved from people who know more about the Amiga's filesystem than I do).

The rest of the stuff was preserved mostly be accident: when software archives were passed from BBS to BBS by users' uploading and downloading, each BBS' identifying "displayme" file was added to the archive. Thus, more of the stuff was found in Operator Headgap's archives of Amiga, err, archives. Another happy little coincidence is that LHA, the archiver of choice on the Amiga, religiously preserves timestamps, and so we know exactly when these displayme's were created.

So now, for the first time in at least a half decade, we can see these bits of history of Memphis' BBSes. They're displayed in Windows' Terminal font scaled to an aspect ratio of 1:1.5 to try to better simulate the experience of a text-based DOS screen (or JR-Comm on the Amiga, etc.) In most cases there are several versions of each BBS' "banner", showing the evolution from e.g. a single line board, to the first time the board got a 14.4 modem, to when the board got one or more extra lines (real live chat with others, imagine!), to when the 28.8's first came out, and so on. I've got a quite a bit more stuff to put up--more ASCII/ANSI art, Software Syntax's ANSI login screens, and some other fun stuff.

The BBSes (i.e., On With The Show)

Additionally, there was one other extremely short-lived Memphis CNet BBS that was run by a guy and his girlfriend. It only ever had one line, and only lasted a few months. If someone remembers what it was called, let me know.

The Official Memphis BBS List/History (R.I.P.)

Chris, a.k.a. The Rebel Gamer, and I did our research, and we found what are probably the true last relics of the old Memphis BBS scene:

The Official Memphis BBS List, 01/99, 46KB text file (Original Zip)
The Unofficial Memphis BBS History, 01/99, 15K text file (Original Zip)

Those were the last updates of the lists that had been faithfully maintained by Ben D'Angelo of the Pyramid BBS since 1991. Sadly, I've been informed by Phantom X (Alex Skinner), sysop of Neuronet / The Veldt between 1995 and 96, that Ben was in a motorcycle accident on January 6th, 2001, and passed away.

Some of the BBSes are up even still, but mostly in Internet form. Trying to dial up the Pyramid BBS results in, "this voice mailbox is full". Chris pointed out that it's probably full of carrier signals. ;-)

Now what would be really fun would be if someone discovered an old BlueWave or QWK mail packet from one of the BBSes...

Other Source of Information

BBSmates provides one massive database of BBSes and BBS users. You can create an account there and add yourself to the rosters of all the old BBSes you used. Pages exist for Artificial Reality, Operator Headgap, Software Syntax, The Eagle's Nest, Commodore Connection/Fantasy Land, and The Tavern.

The BBS Links Database provides gobs of links to more sites about BBSes of the past, BBS software, door games, inter-BBS networks, and other informational sites just like this one. is a massive archive of text files that were passed around the world, from BBS to BBS, by users. Some of them, like The Bastard Operator from Hell, went on to become Internet cult phenomenons and, later, regular features from relatively respectible news sources. Others, such as the Purity Test, went on to be web sites created by people with too much free time. :-)

There is also a section of devoted just to BBS lists. If you're trying to remember the name of a Memphis BBS you were once on, chances are that it's in the 901 area code list.

There is also a LiveJournal community about the Memphis BBSes which is aptly named memphisbbs. Though it is a low-traffic community, many people from back in the day keep an eye on it. Check the community profile to see who's around and post a message to say hi.