Koala Country was a Bulletin Board System (BBS) that was operated by me from 16th October 1989 to 12th February 1995. (approx. 5.5 Years) This BBS received on average 30 calls per day, contained over 100 email message Conferences and approx. 800Mb worth of public domain and shareware files for user to download and was part of the worldwide GT Power Network. Network node number 302/016.
Koala Country was a dedicated host computer connected to a telephone line via a dial up modem. This computer was a 386DX25 with 1 Gigabyte of Hard Disk, an EGA monitor and 14.4K Modem. Sounds pretty basic now but in it's time it was state of the art. This PC was part of a LANtastic Network within my home. My other PCs were used by my wife and I for business use and BBS maintenance.
Using a Terminal Program like Windows Hyper Terminal people could dial up and logon using a username and password. Many of the screens like the logon screen (pictured) were made from ANSI graphics. Once online they had access to Local E-mail, Network E-mail, Echomail (like newsgroups). Users also had access to File Areas (lots of shareware and public domain and information files) Latest Games, Windows software and utilities and drivers, etc. They could Download files from the system for FREE but in return they had to upload some files as well.
As well as File Areas there were DOORs. Doors were programs
that the user could enter (shell out to) from the BBS. Some of
these Doors were for Online Games but most were utility type
programs which I will explain more about later.
The Early days
Koala Country started off as an IBM XT (4.77MHz) with 100MB HD and a 2400 baud modem. GT Power v14.00 was the software. Joined GT Network with address 302/016 in October of 1989.
Started transfering Netmail and Echomail between Koala Country and hub systems. Worldwide locations of hubs meant that other BBS systems could dial in to each other once or more times per day to transfer mail.
In 1992 Koala Country became a HUB system for other Local BBSs in Sydney. A hubs system acts as a message store and forward facility. Messages with special codes could be sent via Netmail to Hub systems and Nodes to pickup or drop conferences and send or request reports.
When you run or even use a BBS you meet a unique group of people who spend lots of hours in front of the computer. We all used to get together at Sysop meetings and BBQs and one time we even organised a SKI TRIP! Some of my best friends were BBS users.
The GT Network in Australia was run by the GT SYSOPs Association, a group of like minded individuals who set up policies, standards and procedures for running the network as far as mail transmission was concerned. The purpose was to maintain a reliable professional level of Mail deleivery to BBS users. The Sysops started meeting monthly at someones house but as the net grew the formal meetings moved into Mail forums so that those along way away could participate.
However, social gatherings were a pleanty and we always had a good time.
Running a BBS requires many hours of labour that you never really gain anything for. Because of this, BBS operators look for, purchase or make their own utility programs to help them automate the management of their BBS.
File Management utilities are needed because each file is located in a FILE AREA or directory along with other similair type files. Also located in the directory is a descriptionsS file which contains descriptions for all the files in that directory for the users to see.
This makes file management difficult because when ever you move files you have to move their descriptions as well. To make matters worse there were two versions of the descriptions file. One for Color and one for Mono displays.
When users upload files to the BBS they go into a new uploads area that nobody but the SYSOP (System Operator) has access to. Files are kept here so the sysop can check their integrity before they were made available for others to download.
But before you could move the new files you got on your system to their respective areas you had to check them. You had to make sure they had no viruses, that they were legal software for distribution via BBS, you had to make sure they were complete and that docos were all present.
You also had to check that they weren't duplicates or something you already had with a different name or an older version of something you already had. You also had to clean out file areas when programs became obsolete or when you started to run out of hard disk space.
The files are stored in a compressed format called ZIP. This compression method allows you to ZIP UP a heap of files into one compressed file which can be later extracted back to original form. This makes transmission through the modem simpler and quicker also. It also makes ith easier to store them on the BBS while saving space at the same time.
User Management and Reporting Utilites
Users of the BBS also had to be managed. When a new person called the BBS their details had to be varified for legal reasons. Once varified they were upgraded depending on their desired level of access. ie. If they payed a membership fee $25 per year, they were allowed to download up to 10Mb before having to upload and had 1 hour per call. If they paid nothing then they could download 1Mb before having to maintain a 20:1 download to upload ratio.
This ratio stuff was fully configured and managed via a utility program that ran on the BBS each time a user logged on and off. This program also upgraded and downgraded the users access level based on this criteria also.
Other utilities that were used reported users statisics, calls per day, week, month, year etc, top callers, top downloaders, uploaders etc.
Doors and Online Games
Online Games were popular but were limited due to ANSI/text graphics displays. This stuff was DOS. You know, 80 columns and 25 lines of ASCII. Stockmarket, Yahtzee, Reversi, Global War (Risk) were popular games but none were as popular as the Online Quiz. People used to fight to get on to answer their questions for the day..
Another Door which was very popular was called FASTMAIL. This door compressed and packaged all the new mail from selected areas since the user last called. Then allowed them to download this mail to be read offline by a reader program on the users computer. It also allowed users to upload Mail as well.
Other Doors were informational type doors, or program registration doors, online shopping, questionnaires, surveys etc.
Some of these doors were very sofisticated and were used to transfer information around the Network automatically.
Bulletins were informational type screens that were displayed when the user first logged on. These were also accessable from the Main Menu. The logon bulletins contained latest important system information. How to use the BBS and BBS etiquete type information was accessable from the Bulletins menu. Other information available was system statistics, top games players etc.
Many of the bulletins were created by Door programs and other utilites that ran at midnight and at 4am after the mail run.
In 1994 GT Power was given RIP graphics which was a new way of presenting High Resolution Graphics to users. The limitations on throughput of the modem, typically 1600cps at 14.4k, meant it was impossible to send large display files like GIF or Windows. RIP was like an EGA version of ANSI still with only 16 colours.
However, at the same time RIP arrived, the Internet was hotting up, and the GT Network was declining in size due to politics, the lack of utilities and the move to E-mail and Newsgroups on the Internet.
Nothing really... it still exists today only these days it isn't connected to the Telephone line anymore. Koala Country, the BBS is as it was on the 12th Feb 1995 when I unplugged the modem. Since then it has been used for my private use only.
The reasons why I shut Koala Country down were many, the main being that my wife had had a baby daughter and I wanted to spend time with them. But some of the reasons that motivated me to do it were because of the number of hours I had to put into the BBS (Mainly due to File Management hassles).
Bulletins Boards are still around and are still the cheapest method of obtaining public domain, feeware and shareware software. Who knows? Someday Koala Country may return on the Internet or something but I can't see it back as BBS, not with me as Sysop anyway.
P.S. For anyone reading this who was a User of Koala Country.
Notice the Koala Graphics with the Baby on it's back? User's of
Koala will remember the famous ANSI Koala... well now it's a
Bitmap with a baby!
BBS Introduction (a Tutorial I wrote years ago)
MS DOS Tutorial (a DOS Tutorial I wrote years ago)
If you would like more information or have any questions, feel free to email me.
Copyright ©1996 - Warren Leadbeatter
Last Updated - 1st Sept. 1996