How to Access BBSes in Linux Using Telnet

How to Access BBSes in Linux Using Telnet

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Relive the old days by connecting to a bulletin board system using Telnet on Linux.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, the most popular way to connect in the US was through Bulletin Board Systems or BBS. While they are not as numerous as they were during their heyday in the mid-1990s, there are still hobbyists operating these systems spread all over the world. And you can access them from Linux, without a dial-up modem.

What are BBS?

A Bulletin Board System, or BBS, is an online system that allows users to communicate with each other. In the 1980s and 1990s, before Internet access was widely available, computer users called them using modems over telephone lines. They were named that because they were like community cork bulletin boards where people could post messages.

BBSs were popular because most of the smaller ones did not charge access fees, unlike the great online services of the era like CompuServe. In the US, local calls were typically free, which also encouraged the few people who had modems to use them.

Many hobby boards were run by their “sysops” or system operators, from their homes on their PCs as a hobby, although there were some commercials. Even amateur BBS sysops encouraged donations or charged access fees because hardware, software, and various phone lines were expensive.

Forums were the forerunners of modern web forums, as their most popular use was discussion boards. They also offered games, software downloads, and real-time chat. They were even linked to a network called FidoNet, which allowed users to send messages to users on other systems.

Many people moved from BBS to the Internet, but never left. A more extensive look at the heyday of BBS culture through the eyes of its users is Jason Scott’s “BBS: The Documentary,” which you can watch in its entirety on YouTube.

One of the best known features of the BBS era is multiplayer games, also known as “door games”. The term comes from the way these games run as external programs from the BBS server software and connect through a “door” to the application. Of these, the RPG “Legend of the Red Dragon” was a PC-based BBS staple.

Find a BBS

You can still access BBSes over the Internet on Linux using telnet. Telnet is generally discouraged due to security concerns, but it is often the only way to access modern boards. If you don’t have telnet installed, use your package manager.

Now you will have to find a BBS to log in. There are telnet BBS directories online. The most important is the Telnet BBS Guide, which, as the name suggests, lists the BBSs accessible by Telnet.

Connection to BBSes with Telnet

A good option to try is Particles BBS, which says, “We are so old, we are retro!” And they mean it: the system works with a Commodore 128!

To access it, simply type: particles 6400

With these boards, if you don’t have an account, you’ll need to create one. In this panel, simply type “New” and then you will be guided through the account creation process, such as choosing a username and password. Since telnet sends unencrypted passwords, choose one that you don’t use elsewhere. Or better yet, use SSH if the board offers it.

Now that you are logged in, the real fun begins. The BBS will present your main menu once you have logged in. There are discussion forums where you can find posts left by other users.

Another PC-based BBS to try is Level 29, which bills itself as “the official BBS of”

To reach it, type:


Black flag BBS is a pirate-themed board that showcases much of the fantastic ANSI art from the BBS community. To reach it, type:


Relive the BBS era on Linux

While the rise of BBS may have been a long time, you can get an idea of ​​what it was like to use a BBS via telnet, as most people have also abandoned their modems and landlines long ago.

Many of the things we do on the internet, including messaging and games, people did on BBS in the 1980s and early 1990s. Retro enthusiasts keep old technology alive.

Logging into BBSes is not the only way to use the modern Linux system for retro purposes. Linux-based Raspberry Pi and Arduino have proven popular for many retro tech projects.

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