The Essential Guide to Bulletin Board Systems

Philip Barker (University of Teesside, UK)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




Barker, P. (2000), "The Essential Guide to Bulletin Board Systems", The Electronic Library, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 137-146.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Electronic bulletin board systems are now playing an important role as tools to facilitate various approaches to accessing online information. Such systems provide their owner(s) with mechanisms that enable certain types of electronic information to be made available online to particular groups of users. Three basic components are needed to build a bulletin board system (BBS). First, a host computer facility upon which to “post” information. Second, a communication network that enables users to access the information that is held on the BBS (typically, this could be the Internet, an intranet or a dial‐in telephone facility). Third, a computer workstation or terminal that a user can employ in order to specify and read the information that he/she requires. This book is an interesting one since it describes how to design, build, operate and use bulletin board systems. It also provides insights and tips on how to make use of a BBS more efficient and rewarding.

This book is organised into two main sections, a glossary and a bibliography. The first section deals with the definition, requirements and operation of bulletin board systems while the second part documents the various resources that are available to those who want to find out more about this approach to information access. The seven chapters in the first part of the book cover a wide range of BBS issues. These include: making a business plan, hardware selection, software selection and operational problems. Various approaches to bulletin board provision are also discussed – for example, software for use on personal computers, and use of the Internet and World Wide Web. Useful summaries of some of the major BBS packages for personal computers are also presented (for example, FirstClass, NewsBoard and MediaHost). In all, details of over 30 different systems are given. Several examples of operational BBS systems are also described and discussed. These deal with topics as varied as travel, mortgages and anti‐virus software.

In the second section of the book the author identifies a number of useful sources of further information. Amongst the resources listed, the author includes lists of vendors, computer magazines and Internet service providers. He also gives details of bulletin board service providers, distributors, consultants, bulletin boards to call and BBS resources on the Internet. All of these relate to a North American and Canadian perspective – which, in some ways, limits the scope and relevance of the book. However, despite the minor limitation inherent in its North American orientation, anyone interested in setting up a bulletin board system (or just wanting to learn more about them) would find this book a very useful asset.

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