Phospher BBS is live!

Take a look at the connect tab for more details and telnet clients.


The History of Phospher BBS

My name is Brian, and I've been obsessed with bulletin boards since 1993. I frequented a number of dial-up boards back in the day, running The Major BBS, WorldGroup, RemoteAccess and, towards the end of the era, Renegade, Mystic, and Synchronet systems. My first experience with a BBS was in 1993 on a system called Phosphor. Phosphor ran The Major BBS with only a handful of telephone lines. The most popular game on Phosphor was Crossroads of the Elements. Crossroads became an obsession. I've spent countless hours mastering the game progressing multiple characters. Nearly 27 years later, I still love the fantasy world.

When Phosphor died, I did everything I could to revive it, including asking the original sysops for their installation directory so that I could host it myself with more modern TCP/IP support. The sysops at the time, "Gremper" and "Pinky," had no interest.

So in 1994, I created Phospher. Phospher started with free software but didn't give me what I wanted; I needed The Major BBS. Crossroads ran on The Major BBS 6.2x, which was built for Microsoft DOS and was designed to only receive connections through telephone lines. Eventually, I acquired copies of the software needed to host and maintain a working BBS running Crossroads.

I spent the following years (even through today) continually improving my infrastructure to host terribly insecure, internet-accessible telnet endpoints running Microsoft DOS. I started with basic 486DX and Pentium 90 desktop computers using DigiBoards with multiple telephone lines and DesqView for mutli-user Door support. Man, was it clunky. This ran for a number of years, before the internet became mainstream. PSTN phone lines eventually died. I needed TCP/IP support. Later, Vircom developed a module for The Major BBS called "Vircom TCP/IP." This was the solution that brought telnet support to the old dial-up BBS. I ran this until early 2020, with tens of thousands of calls over the years.

In 2000, the old Pentiums died. I front-ended The Major BBS with WorldGroup 3.2x, which ran on Windows Server 2000. WG3.2x brought a lot of fancy features (that I never used) but was certainly faster than the old Major BBS + Vircom TCP/IP. Unfortunately, Crossroads didn't run on WG3.x and only supported The Major BBS 6.x (maybe WG2?). WG3.2 became the main BBS, giving me support for newer modules, but Crossroads still ran on The Major BBS with an rlogin connection from WG3.2. The Windows server running WG3.2 and the DOS system running The Major BBS were all moved to VMware Virtual Machines on top of ESX and eventually ESXi. This combination ran from 2005 until January of 2020 and was its final resting place after losing a number of disks on the servers. Until now.

Enter MBBSEmu, The Major BBS Emulator Project. Eric Nusbaum, the project owner and creator, leads the development effort of MBBSEmu along with a few other very talented people. The MBBSEmu team has gone to incredible lengths to reverse engineer the original MBBS software and mimic the original platform. I was quite excited to find the project and interact with the creators. Development is still very much underway but, so far, it's at an incredible stage of support. The system works, it's fast, and easily maintainable with modern operating systems and hosting platforms, e.g., Linux x86, Raspberry Pi ARM, Windows--and Docker!

Phospher is making it's way to running MBBSEmu in production within Docker containers. I do what I can to contribute to the MBBSEmu project, Patreon; finding bugs, feature enhancements, and general testing of functionality. Once the MBBSEmu project reaches a point where user and module data isn't at risk of being destroyed due to major changes to the project code, Phospher will be resurrected with Crossroads as my top priority.

The History of Phospher's Infrastructure

While Phospher BBS is now running in "the cloud" on a single VM over at Linode inside a few containers, here are some photos and a timeline of what it looked like over the years. I don't seem to have any photos from the 90s or the early 2000s :(. For those, I'll need to dig through some old 35mm albums.