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Historical Info

The following story was uncovered lurking on the Net. Permission to republish given by the author, Robin Howells.


Greg Hudson circa 1986

BBS FILE by ROBIN HOWELLS - Originally published in PC Australia, July 1986 and ported to the Net by Carla Perry (the guilty party!) :-)

The Down Under BBS (Bulletin Board System) started with a dream in 1978 - in fact it was a Dream 6800 kit computer, built by Greg Hudson when he was 24 years old. "It had a massive 1 K memory," he recalls. "All programming had to be done in hex and there was no external storage. So when you switched it off you had to be ready to program it again." Now, users of the Down Under BBS know that each time they log on they might find a new feature carefully written into the program. The main menu often offers a surprise. (External storage on the Dream 6800 was on cassette tape, which I didn't have at the time - hence a lot of reprogramming by hand when the unit was switched off. The very first program I wrote was a graphic simulation of the SkyLab satellite orbiting earth, then crashing into the desert of Western Australia.)

"I decided to start the BBS on August 4, 1985 for the public benefit," Hudson says. "I chose the name, Down Under, because I was selling software in the US and wanted a distinctively Australian name". The software was Star Trek Adventure, a text file adventure game with fine graphics, written by him originally for the TRS 80. It was adapted first for the Peach computer and at $15 is a bargain for the IBM PC and compatibles.
I've still got that Star Trek game on a 360K floppy !!! - Greg. And you can download HERE

In less than a year the Down Under BBS has attracted between 40 and 50 users each day, with a few more at weekends. There are around 360 regular users and over 600 irregular users. Only 13 women use the board. Most people spend between 20 to 30 minutes on the BBS. If you do not manage to log on at your first call, keep dialing!

Hudson has added 15K of source code to the original 35K program running the Down Under code to the original BBS to support a host of original features. The improved program has been turned into a standard ASCII BASIC file, which is still under 30K for the whole BBS because it is compiled. In the downloadable files area, selective directories are available including Communication, Finance, Games, Music, Newfiles, Pictures, Unprotection and Utility categories.

The board is used to promote products which Down Under Software has for sale, plus special monthly deals.

The main users are businessmen and students from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Asked to predict developments in BBS here in the next two years, Hudson is not modest. "They'll just have to keep up to me," he says. "I'm in the process of writing a multi-user interface with the Down Under BBS. It will have an interactive chat mode. I believe that is not available on any other BBS in Australia at the moment."

When this feature is added, three people at a time (two external users and the sysop using a local console) will be able to use it. However, Hudson is planning to expand it with 10 Telecom lines.(which is exactly what happened)

Down Under BBS runs on a PC clone which sports 640K, two serial ports, parallel and joystick ports, clock/calendar, a DTC hard disk controller, two outputs to run color and monochrome monitors simultaneously, two Chinon 360K floppy disk drives and a 22M Tandon hard disk. A NetComm 2123 SmartModem logs callers in at 300 baud and 1200/75 and another NetComm SmartModem 1234 connects at 300, 1200/75 and 2400 baud.

WOW! A 22 MEG Hard Disk and 2400 baud modem! How did I cope? :-) - Greg.

Recent figures show that a surprising 51 per cent of calls come in at 1200/75 and 49 per cent at 300 baud. (This was before the 2400 baud access became available). Down Under BBS has probably become so popular because it is continually evolving. Like a Vegemite sandwich, it is distinctly Australian, and very addictive.

Robin Howells is a prolific PC communicator who can be contacted on the Down Under BBS.

Bulletin Board Stats:

Sysop: Greg Hudson
Phone number: (03) 429 5819  or 429 8079  (2400 baud only)
Hours of operation: 24 hours
Baud rates: 300, 1200/75, 2400 
Protocol: 8 data bits, 1 stop bit, no parity (all modes).
Access: Free. (Users can make a voluntary $10 contribution). Correct names and suburbs are required)
Time limit: No daily limit but 60 minute maximum per call.
Files for downloading: Around 250, all for IBM PC and compatibles. Another 15M of software now on floppy disks is to be progressively added to the hard disk as it is evaluated.
Comments: Devoted Sysop ensures that the appearance of this BBS often changing in subtle ways. Top Ten users listing could be a definitive guide to some BBS fanatics.
Messages are a good mix of technical, personal, humorous and 'neighbors over the back fence'. Useful utilities always appearing among downloadable files. Very busy board.

Content 2002 Robin Howells All rights reserved
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