I’m lucky enough to be in that sweet spot generation of not having grown up with the internet and all it can offer, yet experiencing first hand its invention and first mass consumer take up in the form of the BBS. Not young enough to have been exposed to smart phones and devices as soon as you can read, and to take them for granted, yet not old enough to have been true pioneers, so retaining the childlike wonder.
Like the 8-bit computer revolution itself, it was so exciting. As kids we’d barely got used to the idea of owning our very own computer and all that entailed, before seeing films like WarGames and coming across adverts for CompuServe and modems and such like. It was a tantalising concept, and one out of reach for many, but if you were lucky enough to be able to afford a modem to hook up to your Commodore 64, what a world awaited.
So, of course, a few things have changed over the years. We all love resurrecting our old hardware and even creating new games, new software and plenty of new innovative add-ons for the old 8-bit computers. Convergence between old and new tech is addictive, and the internet and Bulletin Board Systems have not been neglected.
So, what are our options in 2022? Well firstly we need to get online. Not so easily done in the old sense of the word as yes, you can find modems still available, some still perfectly useable, but dialling into hosted systems over traditional telephone lines still accepting calls is now very rare indeed (although not totally unheard of).
The next logical step in the modern world is to use the internet, right? Well exactly – and with ethernet interfaces in devices such as the incredible 1541 Ultimate II or the Ultimate64, we can do just that. But there are also other, more convenient options. My hardware of choice is the WiFiModem from CBMSTUFF. A user port add-on that literally, as the name suggests, give you access to the world from your Commodore 64 across your existing WiFi.
The wifimodem is simplicity itself – it adds to existing terminal commands (make sure you’re in an ansii terminal, not colour/petscii) which gives you easy access to configure the SSID and password etc. For example, AT*N lists all available networks. You simply pass the network name and password with another AT command (AT*SSID) and you’re connected. It even uses WPS with AT*WPS. The default BAUD rate is 300 so make sure your terminal program, in my case an updated version of CCGMS, is set to the same.
Oh and in case other people are in the same boat as me, I have to go via my iPhone’s hotspot as my router has been set to 5GHz only (for reasons) and this wifimodem is not compatible, but that’s a very minor inconvenience. (Update Dec 2022 – I have since added a cheap access point with a separate SSID and works like a charm)
So, now we’re online, the next step is to actually connect to something. My next post will be listing a few of the BBS’s I have been using for the last year or so and which ones I think are worthy of your attention (spoiler alert: all of them).