The TEXTFILES.COM Historical BBS List:
News From The Listmaster

There was a bug in the software that almost gave me a heart attack; basically, if a BBS had no timespan, it was given the timespan of the BBS before it. I didn't even notice myself until I saw that my favorite BBS, Sherwood Forest II, was listed as being in 1996-1998, when it was more like 1983-1985! Like I said, a big scare, because if BBSes were getting corrupted years, I was in big, big trouble. The list is fixed now, and as a result, a lot of BBSes now have their timespan blank. More work for me!


Another day, another Slashdotting. If you've never heard of Slashdot, it's an extremely popular geek news website that has previously reported on and, but now was interested in my documentary. This caused over 10,000 individuals to visit the site in a day and a half, and has the mail been flying in! I've been answering as fast as I can, but a side effect is that folks are giving me a great amount of new numbers to put into the list. Bravo!

The documentary is still taking precendence, but other things are underway, including what may be the first of the non-north-american versions of this list, one for Sweden. Stay tuned.


I have't given the list the attention it deserves for a while, because I've been concentrating on the documentary and will continue to do so for a while. I am implementing changes people are sending me, but I have't imported a few lists for a while and the like. When I do, you'll see the number jump past 88,000 BBSes (!) and additionally, the exchanges will list towns accurately again.

Busy days!


NOW we're getting somewhere. I've finally whittled the inbox down to about 23 messages (and they're very complicated messages indeed) and redirected some efforts to improving the accuracy of the site.

People are sending in changes and additions using the submission page and that's making life very simple: It puts it into a form that lets me add the information into the staging machine at something less than a second, with all the choices and redundancy checks being done by scripts. Probably two dozen messages have come in the last 5 days, for example, and they're all up already. That's cookin!

I've written a script that goes through an area code and shows me all the BBSes that have multiple names, or multiple sysops, or multiple software packages. It shows me the entry, and I have the choice of leaving the entry as is, or doing an edit. Basically, I used a ton of scripts to add BBSes, and that's finally caught up to me as some of the name groupings are obviously the work of an entity that isn't looking at the previous names before adding the new names. Hence, you'll see something like "The Eagle's Nest / The Eagles Nest / Eagle's Nest BBS / Eagles Node 1" for a BBS name, and we obviously want to edit that thing down. It makes the whole thing look a little better, to say the least. Now, note that I haven't actually RUN this thing for the ENTIRE site, because that's going to take at least a full day (and be very boring, besides). But I've run it on a couple area codes and really been pleased with the results. The list pages are really starting to shine!

The second set of changes done this week are a little deeper, and a little more complicated. Basically, it's time to address the bane of the historical phone number list: AREA CODE SPLITS. You probably have experienced this yourself, but over time, as area codes have filled up, the phone companies have banded together and either OVERLAID or SPLIT an area code. Overlays make more sense: You make it so a second area code works in the same place as the first; so you will be assigned an area code from one of two possibilities when you get a new phones. It's easier, but it's not often done because it's a technical nightmare. The SPLIT is where they just declare an entire part of a current area code to be a NEW area code, with all the business card changes, sign modifications, headaches, and the like being foisted on the people.

And the BBSes! See, when the area code split happens, a BBS that has been happily humming along in the 914 area code will suddently find itself deep in the new 845 area code, and they end up having to get changed on all those BBS lists and advertisements. And to the software running this site, it then looked like an entirely new BBS! So where the newer area code list might have lots of detail about the Board, the older number in the old area code would have NO detail because it came from different sources. Naturally, you'd want both numbers to be equally accurate..... with the same amount of information on both numbers. Extra bonus if you could mark that a BBS changed its number somewhere....

Now, sit back and think of the logistics and you start to see the headache. First I have to track down every split that ever happened, and dozens happened. Luckily, there are a number of web sites that have done that work. Then I had to put in codes into each directory to say what the change was to. (Oh, and some split area codes split AGAIN at a later time. Advil, need Advil.)

So the script I came up with is currently only doing years, that is, if it finds the BBS ran under area code A from 1985-1991, and the area code split and the BBS ran under area code B from 1991-1996, it will now make it so BOTH entries in BOTH area codes will list the years as (1985-1996), like it should. The script is working in another window, and it looks like it'll be taking between 3-5 hours to run. (I'm very paranoid with my code, and it does a lot of checks so I don't come back to find everything broken.)

Finally, the Area Code Selection page has had a number of changes and improvements to make it easier to navigate. I've shortened the name of some of the area codes, and will probably revert them all to pre-split descriptions. If an area code either split or is the result of a split, it now says as such below it (and you can click on the names of the related area codes to switch to them). You can click on the descriptions and go to the BBS listing for that area code, which is a little smoother. And I reversed the order of the list types and the total BBS count, since you want to have the clickable stuff near each other.

Yes, I have been busy. And not only with this site. But I remember all the complaints and the letters from people explaining to me very carefully how inaccurate my site was because of area code splits, and now I can tell you.... IT'S UNDER CONTROL. In another couple of weeks, it won't even be an issue anymore.


I'm now back from my wedding and honeymoon, which besides being wonderful was also a way to slow things up in terms of my online presence. A perfectly fine trade, as far as I'm concerned. But now that I'm back, I'm trying to get things rolling again.

The mail inbox is currently hovering around 130, because I had let it grow in my absence to something like 210. So I'm not being THAT lazy. I'm slowly filtering through that initial burst of information from May 7th, and I'm sure people are sure appreciating the month and half turnaround....

The projects continue to pile up. Between the BBSLIST.TEXTFILES.COM site and the good old TEXTFILES.COM nightmare that is sorting through my inbox (I'm being dramatic here; I love it.) there's also some other huge projects in the works, including... The Works, which is the BBS I founded in 1986 and which a group of people have been bringing back to be a telnet BBS. Also, I'm working on a BBS Documentary (oh god, the work) which I expect will take years to compile, and I hope to get a number of other writing projects going that I have in my head. I think I'm doomed to be "The Computer Nostalgia Guy" for some time to come.

I don't really think of it this way, of course; I think of it as collecting all the coolest stuff for a computer, just a number of years later than everyone else did (and much cheaper too, as a side effect). I'm meeting a lot of cool people, and I really do keep an eye on the latest trends, neat things, toys, etc. It's not all the past....

Anyway, more as it comes to me.


Now we're at 150 e-mails. You may be wondering why this is taking so long. Well, besides the domains, I'm getting married in Las Vegas in about two weeks. Thanks, thanks. I'm making a lot of phone calls and doing a lot of planning and this is taking my waking hours not also taken by my day job and the on-off TiVO watching. Also, besides this site there's the main site and that's also getting some of my attention, since I (foolishly) vowed I would be through my 40,000 file inbox by the beginning of DEFCON.

On the software/scripting side, things are improving greatly; there are two glaring problems left (besides my lack of world-wide BBSes) and one of them appears to be mostly solved, if incomplete: The incorrect towns for many of the BBSes.

See, when I first started working on his site, kind of screwing around with it, I left things open on the scripting side, because I knew some things would turn out to be minor problems and others would be huge. In the case of the timespan tracking, that turned out not to be so bad. Exchanges, however, turned out to be really bad and the whole way that area codes split was even worse.

Here are the specific situations I have and how I'm addressing them:

The Town Listed for the BBS is Nowhere Near Right.
This is because the BBS predates the exchange list currently being used. If the area code has split, more often than not the Exchange list I am using is from after the split, not before. So, for example, before area code 206 split it was all of Washington State; after it split it was just Seattle. So if I continue to use the "new" exchange list, everything says it was from Seattle, and that drives people in Olympia and other cities just nuts.

I am addressing this by having there be two lists, pre and post-split, and the script will look at the timespan of a BBS and choose which exchange list to go with based on that. This is not perfect, but this will make the "automatic" town names much more accurate. Tests have begun with a couple of the area codes and it looks good.

Even with the "Old" Exchange List, it's still wrong. The BBS was in "Nowheresville-by-the-Pines", not "Nowheresville". I hate those Nowheresville snobs.
This is because even though the town attached to the exchange is pretty accurate, there is always a little overlap and an exchange might have a little piece of another town, or a town so small it barely needs its own exchange (or postal route) is part of a different exchange.

I've solved this by making it so you can define the specific town for a BBS, just like you can define it's sysop, software, and name. This was the way it should have always been anyway; I hadn't added it just because I was focusing on other things. If you tell me the town name, it'll override any of this funky "Automatic" stuff.

My BBS is listed in 201-555-1212 AND 908-555-1212 because of the split that took place, taking my phone number along with it. You have some of the information in one place and some in the other.
Oh, man. What a frigging headache. You start to see why I've not just run along and gone after every last BBS in the entire world; I'm having enough trouble just dealing with good ol' Country Code 1, the USA. Probably the only way I'll be able to do this is with a massive table of splits and to do searches and have the scripts find best matches and have me approve them. I agree the information needs to be there, but what a pain!

This will be the next phase of major problem I need to fix. But I am thinking about it, and I will do something about it at some point. Meanwhile, what about those 150 e-mail messages.....

So, I'll be gone for about three weeks through wedding, honeymoon, and multiple receptions, so things grind to a halt. Hey, Real Life even affects me, occasionally.

I still get letters every day. Thank you.


I'm down to under 200 e-mails in the box, so that's something positive. A lot of them can't be handled by a mere data addition; they've got questions or suggestions, or are wonderful stories of the BBS days and I have to integrate them into the site. If you haven't gotten an e-mail from me about the mail you sent, that's why; I want to do RIGHT by you.

Speaking of doing it right, I'm killing myself adding data. So, I now have a MUCH better way of handling it... an addition/correction page that lets you enter all the data about boards that you think needs fixing or adding. It will help you think through all the data I need, and even previews your entry! It gets mailed to me in a form that lets me perfectly cut and paste your information right into the list's database, and so your work gets RIGHT ON, NO WAITING (comparitively).

I have to get back to soon, but this is a hell of a lot of fun. Keep sending me information and BBS lists!


Well, apparently the cool new Cascading Style Sheets we implemented were not compatible with Netscape 4.7. (It was compatible with Mozilla 0.9, Opera 5, Internet Explorer 5.5, Netscape 6.0, and Lynx.) A few quick e-mails with Jaben and he sent me a version of the CSS file that works with EVERYTHING. Thank you again, Jaben!

There's been a lot of improvement to the text versions of all the area code BBS lists. Previously, I got it working sort of half-assed (all the information was there, but not very well presented) because it was more important just to have this information than to make sure it looks nice. Well, now it's all word-wrapped and it looks nice; so I expect people will be able to actually use them as intended, as guides to entire area codes that are easy to read. (Although less colorful.)

I'm still going through my e-mail (at 290 messages; over 80 arrived today while I wasn't looking) and I hope people don't think I'm ignoring them; I just want to make sure no information is lost.

By the way, I'm working on a mail form for people to send in information so it gets put in even quicker than it is now.


I've found with my other pages that it's almost embarassing to date these things. So, I'm just going to focus on writing what's been done and putting a separator between the different groups of changes and leave it at that. Hey, no rush, right?

So, obviously, I was slashdotted. I brought it on myself, crashed my ISP, corrupted one of my mailboxes beyond retrieval, had to answer a lot of phone calls, and called in some major favors to get the site up and mirrored elsewhere. Along the way, I've been taught about style sheets, mod_gzip, and given an awful lot of information about an awful lot of BBSes. Current mailbox count: 330 messages waiting.

One thing I'm really glad I learned about: mod_gzip. This is an additional module that attaches to the Apache web server that I run that either compresses files on the fly and sends them out, or, even better, checks for a compressed version of a file and shoves that out. Since my lists were in the hundreds of k and being requested by a lot of people, I was VERY glad to see cases where a 400k BBS list (the 314 Area code) was now a mere 50k and with no information lost! If you have a webserver running a lot of huge, static pages, this is without a doubt the program for you! The cost savings in bandwidth alone are breathtaking. In fact, the massive tables this site has just fly along now with the new compression. I'm really impressed and very, very happy. Thank you, HSC.

I got a piece of e-mail from Jaben Cargman of Retro Software Designs who made the simple suggestion "have you considered using Cascading Style Sheets?" Well, the answer was "I've heard of them but I don't have time to learn them, perhaps you might give me some pointers?" and he sent me EXACTLY what I needed to plug into my pages to make them use CSS and run fast. In the case of one of my pages, it went from 800k to 400k just by using his work! Amazing! People like Jaben make it all worthwhile. I suggest checking his site out.

What else... well, USA Today contacted me. We'll see where that goes. :)

And, as you're obviously now aware, the site went through a radical redesign to give more information up front and not foist hundreds of k of list on people who might not be interested at all. This also leaves me open to add more lists of different countries in the future (which I really do want to do, it's just a time thing.)

Also: I will be at DEFCON this year, probably as a speaker on top of it. Consider stopping by.