Project

General

Profile

Retro-Networking / BBS-Revival

This project is about re-creating the experience of telephone/modem based BBSs and BBS networks such as FidoNet, Z-Netz and UUCP/UseNet. It is hence a retro-computing project, but the focus is not necessarily to run the exact same software on the exact same operating systems and hardware that was used back then.

Rather, the focus is on recreating the experience, and showcasing as well as explaining the technologies. We are not afraid to mix it with modern technology.

The project will
  • collect software and hardware used for circuit-switched telecommunication, including Modems, ISDN-TAs, RAS servers, BBS Software, Terminal Programs, etc.
  • build a physical setup of telephone network, modems, BBSs, points, ... that can be demonstrated at events such as vintage-computing festivals or CCC congresses
  • document the items of our collection as well as the physical setup on-line so people can read up about and explore related technology
  • as far as possible, run permanent installations of some of the technologies involved, either using modems over SIP/G.711 or telnet based access

We want to cover analog modems and ISDN on the hardware side, as well as all major network technologies on the software side, such as FTN, ZConnect and UUCP

History

This project started around the 34th annual CCC congress, where LaF0rge (osmocom.org project founder) gave a talk about BBSs and early internet access in the 1990ies, a recording of which can be found at https://media.ccc.de/v/34c3-9034-bbss_and_early_internet_access_in_the_1990ies

Unfortunately not all too much had happened in the following 18 months or so, but at least a growing collection of related POTS + ISDN hardware had been put together. In October 2019 the first modem connections over the PBX were made, as well as a SynchroNET BBS installation put together.

In December 2019, at the 36th annual CCC congress, the full retronetworking setup was in operation for four days. Visitors could step by in the retronetworking village, and use the provided Modems, ISDN-TA and/or vintage laptops in order to dial into both local and remote BBSs or create dial-up internet connections.

Present

The plan was to run the setup again at a variety of 2020 events, incluing Easterhegg and VCFB. However, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered all those plans obsolete. Meanwhile, the setup is kept safe and in operating condition, and it will certainly be deployed at future hacker / vintage computing events.

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