I was curious about my early online history. The sort of stuff that predates “the Internet knows everything” and ages before “Google knows everything. There was once even a time when “it’s probably on Alta Vista” and “hopefully Yahoo can help” were common statements.

I ran NetRunners, a dialup BBS (Bulletin Board System) that was eventually connected to FidoNet. The Intel 80386 machine ran Quarterdeck’s DESQview for early mulitasking under MS-DOS, PC-DOS and preferably DR DOS 5. I have vague memories of playing with 4DOS but I don’t think I used it then.

Thanks to Pavel Gulchouck I can look up my FidoNet history at http://nodehist.fidonet.org.ua/

History of node 3:712/537

 13 Mar 1992, nodelist.073: ,537,NetRunners,Kings_Cross_NSW,Paul_Zagoridis,61-2-368-1326,2400,CM,XA
  4 Dec 1992, nodelist.339: ,537,NetRunners,Kings_Cross_NSW,Paul_Zagoridis,61-2-368-1326,9600,V32,MNP,CM,XA
 30 Sep 1994, nodelist.273: ,537,NetRunners,Moorebank_NSW,Paul_Zagoridis,61-2-824-1097,9600,V32,MNP,CM,XA
  4 Aug 1995, nodelist.216: Down,537,NetRunners,Moorebank_NSW,Paul_Zagoridis,61-2-824-1097,9600,V32,MNP,CM,XA
 15 Sep 1995, nodelist.258: Node removed from the nodelist

The Kings Cross location was the desk in my lounge/dining room corner with a single phone line. If there was already a user online, you’d get a busy signal. I remember we had about a dozen hard-core regular users. If we needed to make a phone call the BBS would be busy for that duration too. We didn’t make many calls. Most NetRunners users were encouraged to use offline mail readers like Blue Wave and GoldEd, so they dialled-in, got their mail and disconnected in less than 3 minutes.

The stable version of NetRunners ran Maximus BBS software. I ran earlier versions of NetRunners on RemoteAccess and GTPower, tested Spitfire and QuickBBS, plus at least one other that I can’t remember.

In 1994 I realised the phone lines and a computer at the office were unused outside working hours and free during peak BBS demand times. I moved NetRunners to Moorebank on 30 September 1994 on multiple lines. No more busy signals and my wife was happy to have the BBS out of our home. Of course I had to use dialup instead of sitting on the host machine.

By July 1995 I got dialup access to the Internet. I suddenly had Email, Usenet, FTP, Gopher and Netscape Navigator for early HTTP World Wide Web surfing (it could also handle the Gopher protocol) . I didn’t see a need to maintain a BBS for FidoMail, EchoMail and a few multi-user games. NetRunners listed as down on 4 August 1995 and finally delisted it 15 September 1995.

Many of the Sysops from those days went on to found early ISP’s as they understood multiuser systems.

I even remember an OzEmail sales rep, dropping by the office to pitch me their “wonderful & cheap” email service where email would be delivered for only $0.10 per email when snail-mail stamps cost $0.24 per envelope. I pointed out that I sent and received email for free.

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