The first serious BBS I ran was called ‘Tales From The Crypt’. My handle was ‘The Crypt Keeper’. This was in the 413 (Western MA) area code. It turns out your area code was a big deal back in the day. Long distance calling fees were insanely high, way out of reach for a teenager. Your local dialing code was basically the limiting factor for the other BBS’s you could frequently connect with.
I ran this board using the Renegade BBS software.
I loved Renegade because it was so easily customizable and hackable. Back in the day it was seen as a sign of being ‘elite’ if you could hack your BBS software in a unique way. I would spend many hours rooting around .EXE files in a hex editor to customize text strings, functionality, etc.
Most of the content on this BBS was message boards, ansi, and warez.
After gaining significant following on this BBS I really wanted to upgrade my graphics. I became friendly with a local ANSI artist and ended up paying him for login and menu graphics. This was a big expense for me at the time. I’m guessing I paid something like $20 but don’t really remember.
The artist was Maestro and he was from one of the most popular (still to this day) ANSI groups called ICE. I was really stoked about having some professional graphics on my board!
Here was the main logo for the BBS:
And the menu graphics:
It’s super cool to see that these ANSI’s are still hosted on ICE’s official site here: http://www.ice.org/art/Maestro/Tales-from-the-Crypt
I spent dozens of hours customizing this board, interacting with callers, responding to messages, etc. A real community was starting to form.
It’s hard to explain what the BBS experience was like to people who have grown up in the internet era. Unlike an internet message board, a BBS consisted of people from your local area. There was something more intimate about it.