When I discovered BBS'es at 15 ( 1988 ) my life changed considerably. It was, as mentioned below, like a secret Goonies tunnel to the upside down......
I ended up running my own BBS on my C64 and had to get a job to pay for the extra phone line and the array of 1581 3.5 drives I had to buy to support it. I was up all hours of the night talking to people who logged in. Trying out new BBS software, getting into ASCII art, warez, demos, etc. was a lot of fun.
It got so bad my mom had to sit me down and tell me that I had to go outside and ride my bike, play football, etc.
Nearly 30 years later I am still working with software everyday and enjoying ever minute of it. I do have to remind myself to go outside.......
We wound up with a whole second set of Commodore equipment in the late '80s when my dad's business partner gave up on trying to organize his side of the business like my dad. It was a free upgrade from C64 to 128, one disk drive to two and we got a modem out of the deal. I suppose it was discovering random strangers on a phone line could be friendly and interesting that makes me sad about what the Internet has not become so far.
This is SILLY to be on top. but if YOU want to connect to BBS's that are STILL online. they're NOT on phone lines. They're on Telnet. No joke. and they're WONDERFUL for reliving your old ways:
This documentary on BBSs is well worth the time:
It was my neighbour and his C64 that got me into BBSs back in the 80s, and even when I finally got a modem for my Atari ST I was somewhat jealous of the unique characteristics of the C64 BBS community. The PETSCII graphics + colour aspects of those BBSs were really nice. I don't see any of that in this video, but there was some really fantastic artwork in the C64 BBS community.
Particles BBS is another good Commodore board. I connect using my VIC-20 and a USR-TCP232-T2.
When I was 8 or 9 my dad bought both a Vic-20 and a Commodore 64. The fun I had writing in basic. It used to consume my weekends. I would actually get up early (5am) to start my projects.
When I was older I ran a BBS (not on a C64) with 2400 baud modems, then 14.4 baud modems when MacMall was having a sale on them for only $89 each. I learned so much about programming as I extended my BBS's functionality. I think I still have my notes from my work still.
Had I realized it back then I probably had invented Reddit :-)
The major BBS software I remember was DMBBS and it’s derivatives, and C-Net, both of which were very advanced, DMBBS supported PETSCII and was very colorful and allowed animated posts, and C-NET was modular and supported loadable modules(games) multiple dialin lines, and later federation.
There were a collection of simpler boards used by pirate sites in the 80s, but community wise, I felt C-Net 128 was the most advanced BBS.
I spent about a year myself writing a modular BBS in assembly code to try and beat it, including a ram disk, multitasking with windowing system for sysops, federation and fast search indexing, but quit to move to Amiga in 1989.
BBS software was really the the Web 0.1 of its day and a very dynamic and fascinating field to watch develop.
I still have a fondness and warm feeling when I see an acoustic coupler or Vic Modem and the old Bell phones where you dialed manually and then disconnected the handset and quickly plugged it into the modem. Love watching Wargames because of this.
I wish I knew how to program then like I do now. So much time wasted playing games instead of making things and being creative.
Don't get me wrong, some games time was an absolute must, but maybe not 100% computer time as games time.
I recently watched this incredible documentary about BBSs: http://www.bbsdocumentary.com. It’s free to watch on YouTube or download on torrents.
If you like this, check out neohabitat.org a relaunch of the first virtual world. You can play via emulator, or if your C64 is online, you can play with an original C64.