From Daryl Stout@1:19/33 to All on Sat Jul 4 11:55:58 2015
You Want To Be A Sysop?? Courtesy Of: Tom Ezell
To start your BBS, you first need a computer. No matter what
computer you currently have, it won't be large enough or powerful
enough for what you intend to do. And since you can't take the board
down (unless you run a kiddy board that bounces up and down, or runs
only between the time school lets out and Daddy comes home) to do
your own work, you will need another computer that you can ill afford.
Next, you have to find a BBS software package. This can take months...
or you can write your own, if you are so inclined. This can take years.
And, unless you are starting a kiddy board, you will need a phone
line other than the one that you normally converse on. Depending on
the phone company's mood, personnel, and the imminence of a strike,
this could be done in as little as 2 weeks, or it may never happen.
Additionally, they will have to determine if it ever crossed your
mind to even think about receiving any recompense from your BBS, so
they can charge you business phone rates instead of the cheaper
residential rates. Or if you want to run a BBS with a high speed
Internet connection, you will have to consider the cost of the
DSL or High Speed Internet, the phone line and/or cable service
charges as well.
Then, if you plan to run doors on your board, you must now spend
long distance dollars in scouring other boards for evaluation, and
then the acquisition of these files. Naturally, your external file
protocols don't come with your BBS software, so you have to again
scour the countryside to find them. Utilities for your BBS are also
an afterthought, and have to be obtained in a similar fashion. All
of these external programs have to be registered after a while,
since most stop working after a while, or have an annoying feature
about them until they are registered. All of the above items take
money, and plenty of it!!
While we are on the subject of money, you must obtain a new modem.
Whatever modem you currently have will not be supported by the BBS
software. This is some sort of unwritten law pertaining to writing
communication software. Be prepared to open up your wallet wide. No,
your old Hayes 300 won't be good enough. People even hate 2400 baud
these days, and all the teenagers seem to have US Robotics Dual
Standard Modems these days, and will complain vociferously if they
can't access you at 14400 baud, or higher.
Now, you pick a name for your BBS. Whatever you choose will be
ridiculed by 20% of those who see it. Another 50% will offer other
suggestions that are worse than the one you chose. The remaining 30%
won't even care.
Then, comes the wonderful task of installing your board. You have
your machine. If you just bought it, that means formatting your hard
disk, installing DOS, ANSI, and other drivers, several utilities, and
twenty complex batch files to tie it all together, and Lord knows what
else that you need for your board. If you already have the machine,
you may as well go ahead and reformat it anyway. Something will
guarantee that you will have to do this before you are done.
The manual for the BBS software was most likely written by the
author's 10 year old and was mimeographed. It got wet in the mail
and smeared as well, so at least 30% of the manual will be physically
useless. The rest is just procedurally useless.
Next, comes the fun task of deciding on your board structure. Who
can do what, and when can they do it. You must design your menus and
opening screens. You have to get a pretty good stock of files, since
no one will upload to you unless you have something there for them to
take first (not that it matters, I suppose, since even if you DO have
files, they won't upload much anyway).
Then, comes the security aspect. You can leave your BBS wide open,
so that users with the name of Victor Virus, Dr. Doom, Mr. Crack,
Hackman, File Attack, The Destroyer, RAM Raper, etc., can come in, and
do anything they like. Or, you can lock it up so tight, that no one
will call. There is no compromise on this.
Next, you must build events, or prepare to live at your keyboard. A
BBS *HAS* to be backed up. If you can't afford a high density backup
medium such as tape, cartridge, DVD-ROM, or external drive, you will
spend many, many hours per week flipping floppies. Events are designed
to allow the Sysop the luxury of having the board do routine tasks at
odd hours by itself (mail runs, backups, purges, and so on). These
never work as they come, and will have to be extensively modified by
you. And, since they generally only run between 12 midnight and sunrise,
you will have to be awake to see just how they die, and then try to fix
All right...the big day is here. Your board is ready, your modem is
ready, the phone company finally hooked you up, and then you start up.
This is when after 2 days of no one calling, despite your BBS ad in
COMPUTER SHOPPER, and having placed your number on every other BBS in
existence, you discover that the initialization strings for the modem
are wrong, and the darn thing won't answer incoming calls. You discover
this by calling your own BBS from a friends' home. This takes calls to
the author of the software, the manufacturer of the modem, and finally
gets resolved by asking another Sysop how to do it.
Oh Boy! Now we're in business! During your first caller's visit,
someone will hit a telephone pole, and you will lose power. Naturally,
since the board is new, you didn't back it up. The power surge when
the electricity was restored fried your hard disk. Go back to low
level formatting (sigh!).
Finally, you're up and working. After about a week of gleefully
seeing someone call, you will encounter Victor Virus, or his ilk. He
will leave public posts (always in caps and terribly mis-spelled)
about what a really lousy board this is, and that the Sysop is a
four-eyed, stupid idiot. You automatically kill his account.
But, do you leave the message for the world to see?? Hmmm...problem
number 1. Killing Victor does no good, because he will be back with
another account such as SYSOP STINKS; or some such thing. Eventually,
he will tire of the game and go away; but he has given ideas to 30 of
his friends, who will also visit you sometime in the next week.
Then, you will be visited by the "smart kid" who can tell you
everything that's wrong with your machine, your software, etc. It
doesn't matter that he's calling you on a Timex Sinclair...he
knows more about your system than Intel.
By now, your name has spread around. If you're in a college town,
the kids have your name and number. If it's September or January, you
likely are in trouble. You will probably be bombarded with file requests
for commercial software. Some will assist you by uploading Lotus 123
version 3 that has the copy-proofing removed. Whoever uploads this to
you, will then (anonymously, of course) call Lotus Development Corp.;
and tell them that you have a pirated version of their software on
If you imposed an upload/download ratio such that users must upload
one file to get x numbers of files in return, then you will receive
2K text files from them. They will download 2 Megs of .GIF files in
By now, you are disappointed with your message bases. You perhaps
have (if you are fortunate) two or three users who post messages
outside of private mail. These three users are symbionts who, if one
of their number does not call for 2 weeks, will not post because they
miss their friend. Your message bases will starve. You set up many
areas for messages, all carefully listed by topic. No public post will
ever go into the area that it should be in. You will find a raunchy
joke posted in the Bible topics area, technical questions asked in the
political opinion area, and a message from one of Victor Virus' cronies
in the technical section.
You will next encounter the user who can't do anything right. He'll
make you feel terribly guilty that you are running this system that
seems to rudely exclude him from enjoying it, because he cannot master
the concepts of BBS commands. He DOES however, know how to leave a
M)essage, C)omment, or to Email Feedback to the Sysop.
At first, you will be responsive to all the user complaints and will
make a valiant effort to obtain the special game that was requested as
a door. You discover it on a board in the Fiji Islands, and the off
peak call cost you $32 to download it. You find then that the game was
written for a BBS program other than the BBS that you run. You search
the countryside for a conversion interface; finding one in Missoula,
Montana; add another $40 in phone bills from the search. You discover
now that the game must be registered with the author. This is another
$69. You discover this after the game was installed, when you called
from your friend's house to test it. You find out that while the
console looks wonderful while it is being run, the user sees a screen
that informs him that the Sysop is a cheap bum who didn't even bother
to register this wonderful piece of software. Since the Sysop is such
a creep, why do you call there? Naturally, you register it so that
this annoyance screen goes away. After it has been on the board for 2
months, you discover that only 1 person ever used it, and he only went
in there once, dropped carrier and hung up the board because you later
discovered that this "wonderful" piece of software doesn't monitor
carrier. Do you now register Watchdog so this won't happen again, or
do you just scrap the game?
The work load is getting heavy on the board. Wow!! It takes at least
2 hours per day to stay up with things. Answering mail, hunting down
Victor Virus' latest account, changing screens, moving messages back
to the areas that they truly belong in, adding new things, paying the
phone company, arguing with your spouse, etc. You decide that maybe
it's time to enlist some help in the form of an assistant or Co-Sysop.
This is a mistake. The Co-Sysop will pay little attention to the needs
of the board, but WILL experiment with things like remote drop to DOS,
and call every other BBS in town asking that, since he is a Co-Sysop on
your BBS, can he have a Visiting Sysop account at theirs?? I think that
this needs little elaboration <grin!>.
By now, you are conversant with the many user complaints, such as:
1) Why aren't you around to answer the Sysop Page at 3am??
2) Why does your message editor use A) for Abort instead of Q) for quit?
3) How come there aren't any nice ANSI or RIP screens?
4) How come these crummy ANSI screens slow down the board?
5) Why can't I stay online for 3 or more hours at a time?
6) Why can't my C64 see your graphics?? It must be your crummy board!!
7) Why can't I access the adult files area if I'm not at least 18?? I
need it as part of a sex education class research project!!
8) I never post messages because no one else ever does!
9) What do you mean you killed my upload of DBase IV?
10) I did upload something a year ago...so how come I can't download more
than 100 files now?
11) How come my friend has access level 50 and I only have level 40?
12) How come nobody ever sends me mail?
13) I used a bit editor on ProComm and now it won't work...tell me how to
14) That GIF file I downloaded didn't run...this stinks...you really must
be a lousy Sysop if you don't check to see that it would work for me.
15) Boy.. do you have a bad attitude! I think the "Silicon Sarcophagus" is
100 times better than this board! This is a free country...I can say
ANYTHING I want in public messages!! What are you, Hitler or something?
16) Why do I have to give you my information?? It's none of your business!!
17) I don't want to search through the Help Files to find out how to use
this crummy system...why did you choose such crappy software??
Then, you will discover the wonders of Sysop to user interactive
online chat. You will find this to be a most opportune time to get
things done. Since the majority of users who will page you into chat
type at about one one-millionth baud, you can have a conversation
with the user and get things done...like mowing the lawn, making a
seven course meal, and cleaning out the garage before the user has
stated his request. Generally, the chat request was for something
such as "How do I get out of a file listing?". Or something similar,
that is well covered in the user manual that you have both as a file
for downloading, and as a bulletin for online reading.
One admonition is to not get angry about carrier drop by the user.
Remember that the user is calling you through the same old phone company
that services you. Chances are that no matter how malicious or inept
the user may be, the phone company folks probably did it, anyway.
Next, comes BBS software upgrade time!! Such fun!! Three weeks after
you register and install the current version of the BBS software (or
mailer or mail tosser...) the author will release a brand-new version
of the program. You will also find that the author no longer supports
your older version. You have to upgrade. This means once again opening
your wallet. The new version will not have the same reserved file
names, nor will the file structures be the same. The author generously
supplies you with a conversion program. This program is designed to
assist you in making all the little changes needed to perform the
upgrade. It will automatically convert your file names and structures.
There are two types of these programs. One that requires that you have
5 megabytes more free space than you do; the other that will abort half
way through the conversion because of a bad disk sector read and didn't
have a corresponding error trap. Of the two, the latter is the more
catastrophic, because now your data can't be read by either version of
the software. Since you successfully upgraded your software, you now
discover what the words "Beta Test Site" really means.
Now, since you've done so well to this point, it's time for the
hardware to find something to compensate for all this good effort.
Generally, the hard drive controller is the most likely device to make
this decision to fail. It will not, however, abruptly die. It will
instead, gradually mis-write to disk over a period of several days
before deciding not to work at all anymore. This has the advantage that
your last backups will be no good at all once you replace the controller
and reformat the drive.
Are you sure that you still want to be a Sysop?
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