Multi-node BBS'

Jason Scott jason at
Tue Feb 17 08:59:00 CST 2015

I've seen multiple implementations people used.

All these solutions either used a single machine multi-tasking, or multiple
machines sharing some resource (like a hard drive). For example, a small
number of Apple II multi-node BBSes existed, and they would simply share
the SCSI hard drive along the chain, and software mods to the BBS software
would put files on the hard drive. To some level of people this was
miraculous and to others routine. Race conditions were a little easier to
deal with.

Systems later in life like EXEC-PC or Rusty and Edie's or Channel 1 would
have one machine per seat, with a dozens or hundreds of seats. This would
usually take over a house - the Channel 1 operators moved out of their home
and into another home near the building, for example. Pictures are
available in Boardwatch and others of the Exec PC setup, as well as Rusty
n' Edie's.

Then there are UNIX BBS types as mentioned above (I'm assuming we're
sticking with modem-connected BBSes - obviously when we switched to
Internet BBSes, all bets were off). This was easier, relatively, since the
system could do a lot of the multi-tasking work. Andy Rubin (of Android
fame) ran an 8-line XENIX system called Spies in the Wire that was a
technological lark of this sort.

Desqview or Pharlap were good options for two phone lines, two modems, and
a single system, as long as you didn't tax one "side" too much.

Galacticomm's multi-line card was actually designed to be a more general
computer-to-modems interface, and the MajorBBS software was designed to be
one of multiple example programs to demonstrate it - it just happened to
take off in a big way.

So, it's one of those "of course" hacks that different people did with very
different methods.

On Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 6:44 AM, JP Hindin <jplist2008 at> wrote:

> Gary's pulling up a BBS pushed me onto a wave of nostalgia so I've been
> digging through my old DOS archives of BBS software and the like that I
> picked up years ago and I came to a question.
> How did people set up multi-node BBS' back in the day?
> I know you could run something like Desqview and run multiple copies on a
> single system, and some BBS' (like TBBS) had built-in multitasking so it
> handled multiple modems. And, of course, you could get fancy and run a
> Novell network. Were there other ways of doing this?
> I also saw a random mention of multi-node Commodore BBS'. Given Commodores
> didn't network or multi-task, I'm curious if the author of the note was
> mistaken, or if such things existed -- and then how did they work?
> My thanks for helping with my flashback;
>  - JP

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