So you think you want to start a BBS?

by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First published in Our Computer Player, September 1994.

"The BBS Construction Kit"
by David Wolfe
John Wiley & Sons
ISBN 0-471-00797-8
price: ???

Like John Wolfe, author of "The BBS Construction Kit", I'm going
to assume that you're pretty familar with using a modem to log
onto your friendly neighborhood BBS... you've downloaded, and
uploaded, sent mail and chatted, and browse message forums.

So you've wondered whether you might want to join the several
hundred people in the Vancouver-area alone who've decided to run
a BBS.

Or you wonder whether having a BBS would be useful for your
work... maybe you could take sales orders direct, or give
customer support.

But you don't know where to start in moving from being a BBS
user to running one on your own.

John Wolfe is the sysop of Pandaemonium (sic) in Indianapolis.
He's written this book to get people started setting up and
running their own BBS. It even comes with software to get you

And this is at the same time, the book's strength and a
weakness. John recommends GAP BBS software-- he uses it himself,
and includes a copy of it with the book, limited to a 20 user
BBS. (There's a discount coupon included for the full version).

I'm sure GAP is a good system, although I personally haven't
seen anyone running it here. John makes a good, though clearly
biases case for it. But the book suffers from a plit

Half of it is a nicely written, chatty introduction to the
issues involved in running a BBS... the costs, the hardware, how
to set rules, email privacy, viruses, pornography, pirate
software, and more. Sometimes poorly organized, definately
opinionated, now and again, simply wrong. But fun to read, even
if you disagree.

The author is clearly aiming at hobbyist systems... the book
never recognizes that BBSs might also be of use to small
businesses, who can use this book, but only by changing the
information for their own purposes. These users might be better
off with the book "BULLETIN BOARD SYSTEMS FOR BUSINESS", by Lamont Wood and Dana
Blankenhorn, reviewed in the January 1994 Computer Player.

The other half of the book, the more technical half, is a sort of user's
manual for the included GAP BBS software. If you were looking to
use other software, this book isn't for you.

I might have prefered more general information on setting up a
BBS with a variety of software, but that might have resulted in
a book that was either too big or too vague to be usable.

(There is a useful section on running the (DOS) BBS software
under Windows, one of use to anyone trying this often
challenging task).

As it is, if you are prepared to use (and eventually purchase)
the software included with the book, "The BBS Construction Kit"
will do just what the title suggests-- walk you through the
process of getting started running a small BBS system, using the
author's favorite software, and ready to welcome the public (at
least 20 of them, anyway!)

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan