The TEXTFILES.COM Historical BBS List:
An introduction by Jason Scott

As the age of the Dial-Up BBS draws to a close, I thought it necessary to ensure a way to keep some understanding of the role of BBSes in the growth of the Internet. More importantly, I thought it might be fun to collect the phone numbers of every known dial-up BBS and find a way to enshrine them in one easy-to-browse list. This way, people could look back at the area codes and exchanges of their youth and remember all these electronic places, these meeting houses and hangouts that formed a part of so many people's youth.

A Very Short History

The first modem for microcomputers was invented by Dennis Hayes in 1977. This device (short for MOdulator-DEModulator) allowed two computers to connect to each other over the existing telephone network. Previously, dedicated phone lines were used between permanent computer installations. He soon founded D. C. Hayes Associates, later Hayes Corporation, which was a leader in PC Modems for most of the 1980's.

While the idea of being able to use the existing phone network for computer communication was still new (and gaining interest by hobbyists and others to transfer information) it was two people, Ward Christensen and Randy Suess, who created the first "Bulletin Board System" and put it online in February, 1978.

The concept behind "Ward and Randy's CBBS" was to provide a way for others to dial into their computer, and leave messages for other users. They described it as a natural extension of an actual physical Bulletin Board they were using for their local computer club. They published an article in Byte Magazine describing their software, and the era of the Dial-Up BBS had begun.

There are many histories of the BBS and I hope to write a comprehensive one myself at some point in the future, but a number of links are provided below for you to research by yourself.

The BBS List

As more and more people purchased modems to go with their home computers and wanted to sign up with all these "BBSes" they'd been hearing about, a fundamental problem presented itself: How to find out what the numbers of the BBSes were. Since anyone could set up a BBS (if they had an extra phone line or were willing to give up human calls) the issue was more one of publicity than opportunity. Word-of-mouth was effective, with BBS numbers showing up at computer club meetings and passed around schools. Some people advertised on other BBSes, so that if you got one phone number to a BBS, you would soon know others. Eventually, however, some folks took it upon themselves to maintain BBS Lists, where they would keep track of all the BBSes of a given subject matter or type, or even an area code, and others would let them know if they had put up a new BBS. Over time, these BBS lists could be found everywhere, and gave people an easy way to know what numbers to call to log on.

This was the age of the BBS List; you would download the month's list to see what new places there were to call. If a site didn't get on enough BBSes, they wouldn't get enough calls, and would eventually close down. Of course, the administrators of these lists had policies of who they would let on, focusing on one kind of computer hardware, or location, or what the subject matter of the BBS was. Some also refused to list "underground" BBSes, making them even more "underground" than they might have been.

An Idea Is Hatched

While doing work on, I started to think about the many thousands of BBSes that had come and gone, and the effect they'd had on myself and many others. I remembered the days when I would go up and down BBS lists calling every last board seeing what was new or what was being offered, ignoring what the board called itself or what others claimed it did or didn't have, wanting to see for myself. I remember running into boards with brilliance behind the wheel and BBSes that had been left to die and were inhabited by a bunch of squatters and power players. Many of these places are lost in my memory, but seeing their names or numbers brings it all back.

I figured that since TEXTFILES.COM had all these BBS Lists from that period of time, I might consider compiling a list. Several bourne and Perl scripts later, the list is now up into the many thousands (although always in need of pruning and verification) and the project is well underway.

The way I see this project is as a lark, and a fun thing to do in my spare time. I will work to always make my efforts reproducible, and the data files that are generated by my scripts will hopefully come of use to people in other projects, related or not. I would hope that some people will browse these lists and really enjoy looking back at their favorite area codes, and remember that part of their lives.

So welcome to the world's largest BBS list. I hope you enjoy browsing it as much as I did compiling it.


Information was taken from the following sources:

Ideafinder: The PC Modem
(, link dead) Interview with Ward Christensen and Randy Seuss<