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Atari 8-Bit Computers: Frequently Asked Questions
Section - 10.2) What programs can I use to host a BBS on the Atari?

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Top Document: Atari 8-Bit Computers: Frequently Asked Questions
Previous Document: 10.1) What programs can log in to other computers via modem?
Next Document: 10.3) How can I read/write 8-bit Atari disks on an MS-DOS PC?
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
"A BBS, plain and simple, is some hobbyist setting up their own computer to
answer incoming calls from other hobby computers.  The visiting person
leaves messages on this computer for other visitors, plays games while
visiting, sends and receives files, and all that." -- Greg Goodwin, 2005

The 8-bit Atari was particularly popular for hosting a dial-up Bulletin Board
System (BBS). 

This section attempts to list all BBS programs for the Atari.  Of these, BBS
Express! Professional and Carina II BBS seem to be programs that stand up well
even today.

Contributors to this section include: Winston Smith, Steven Sturza, Chad
Hendrickson, Don Fanning, Matt Singer, Pete Davis, Jeff Williams, Rod Roark

  o  AMIS BBS --  The Atari Message Information Service
original version by Tom Giese of Michigan Atari Computer Enthusiasts. pd.

The "granddaddy" of BBS programs for the 8-bit Atari.

The AMIS BBS was written in BASIC.  It included designs for a ring-detector.
You needed a sector editor and had to allocate message space by hand, hex byte
by hex byte.

Several versions of AMIS:
     *  Standard AMIS, original version by Tom Giese
     *  MACE AMIS - from the Michigan Atari Computer Enthusiasts,
                    by Larry Burdeno and Jim Steinbrecher
     *  Fast AMIS
     *  MPP AMIS by Matt Pritchard
     *  Comet AMIS by Matt Pritchard and Tom Johnson, with Trent Condollone
        "AMIS so modified that it didn't resemble AMIS"
     *  AMIS XM301 - Mike Olin and Mike Mitchell
     *  TODAMIS 1.0, for 1030/XM301, 1986, Trent Dudley
     *  Carnival BBS, see below
     *  FoReM was derived from AMIS, see below

  o  ARMUDIC, by Frank Huband
From the Atari club of Washington, D.C.
Greg Leslie writes "It was written (in BASIC with machine language 
subroutines) by Frank Huband, and the name came from the numbers used to dial
the original BBS.

  o  ATABBS - Atari Bulletin Board System
     Rod Roark writes (3/12/03):
                This is really straining my memory -- don't recall exactly
                when I wrote the thing (maybe '80 or '81), but as far as I
                know ATABBS was the world's first BBS for the Atari 400/800.
                I ran it out of my condo in Atlanta on a 48K 400 with an 80K
                floppy drive and a 300 bps Hayes Smartmodem.  The 48K memory
                module was a third party add-on, not Atari's.
                It was written in Atari BASIC with a few bytes of machine
                language thrown in.
  o  AtariLink -- by Pab Sungenis.
From his blog at on 3/20/06:
In 1985-1986 I wrote and eventually released the AtariLink BBS software.  This
came out of necessity, since most Atari BBS programs at the time (especially
FoReM and its bastard children) didn't fully support the 1030 modem that I
used (or the XM301 that followed afterward).  I eventually adapted the program
to work with Atari's 1200 bps SX212 modem when that was released, and in the
process threw the program open to just about every modem out there.  AtariLink
floated in the wild, passed from BBS to BBS for a while, before an Atari
magazine (I forget which one) distributed the software as its disk of the

  o  ATKeep --  An Atari 8-bit version of CITADEL BBS, by Brent Barrett
ATKeep is a Citadel-like BBS system for eight-bit Ataris.  ATKeep runs under
SpartaDOS and requires BASIC XE and 128K of RAM.  Originally "MBBBS (Message
Base Bulletin Board System) 1.0, March 24th, 1986" MBBBS was changed to Atari
Keep, or, ATKeep for short, around version the time version 4.0 was released
(June 15, 1986).

ATKeep 7.0 finally took the aide and cosysop commands out of a menu section
and put them into extended commands, where they belonged.  It also added a
SYSOP level command set.  Users were no longer "users" "aides" or "cosysops,"
they had become level "A" (SYSOP) through level "Z" (READ ONLY).  The system
had become extremely complex. Public, hidden OR password protected PRIVATE
rooms.  Each room now had its own access level (thus keeping people of lower
level from getting in EVEN if they knew the room name).  Each room was
assigned a RWRT (or Read WRiTe status), which determined who could enter
messages in it, and whether or not public or private messages, or both were to
be allowed.

Before version 7.0, ATKeep only worked with the Atari 1030 or XM301 modems.
ATKeep 7.0 was rewritten to accommodate the 850 or PRC interface allowing use
of any Hayes compatible modem.

ATKeep version 7.50 was released (1987), was version 8 released?

  o  BBCS -- Bulletin Board Construction Set, by Scott Brause/Antic, 1985
A machine language program, developed as the Jersey Atari Computer Group
(JACG) BBS system.

BBCS was known for its great flexibility.  The sysop was offered easy
customization by the use of menus.  Many BBSes before it required that you had
to actually change the BASIC code in order to customize your BBS.

Unfortunately, it also suffered from a reputation for stability problems.

  o  BBS Express!  -- 1986, Keith Ledbetter/Orion Micro Systems
Written in compiled Action!.  1030/XM301 and 850 versions.

  o  BBS Express! Professional ("Pro!")--6.0b 1999, Lance Ringquist/Video 61
Originally released in 1988 by Keith Ledbetter and Chris King from Orion Micro
Systems.  Later purchased by Bob Klaas of K-Products, before most recently
being purchased by Lance Ringquist/Video 61.

Written in 100% machine language.

Requires XL/XE, SpartaDOS 3.2+, hard drive highly recommended, or at least a
large RAMdisk.  R-Time 8 is fully supported.

  o  Carina II BBS -- v2.7 (1995), David Hunt/Shadow Software
Carina II was originally developed by Jerry Horanoff.

Requires an XL or XE computer, at least 500K of storage capacity (including
RAMdisk and drives), and SpartaDOS version 2.3 or greater.
Recommended: 192K RAMdisk or greater, and an R-Time cartridge.
Fully supported: An MIO interface and a hard drive.

Pete Davis writes (15 Aug 2002):
Carina was a pretty powerful BBS system.  Though it was written in BASIC (with
a number of machine language routines), it was expandable and was able to load
new BASIC programs with the BBS running.  In fact, it was quite modular and
would load different sections of the BBS at runtime.  I actually used it when
I ran a BBS some time back.

  o  Carnival BBS -- "essentially AMIS with an overlay to allow for private
                     messages and passwords."  -- Antic

  o  FoReM BBS --  Friends of Rickey Moose BBS.  By Matthew R. Singer.
At the time, there were a lot of BBSs around called things such as "FORUM-80"
and "BULLET-80", ergo the name.  FoReM BBS was the first truly RBBS-like BBS
for the ATARI 8-bit.  It was programmed in BASIC and was somewhat crashy.  I
think that this is the great-grandparent of the FOREM-XE BBSs that survive

Matt Singer writes:
FoReM BBS derived from an early AMIS. When multiple message areas were
added the name was extended to FoReM 26M.  Then, When OSS released BASIC
XL the program was rehacked and called FoReM XL... Bill Dorsey wrote most
of the Assembler routines (where is he now?).

  o  FoReM MPP BBS -- by Matt Singer, sold by MPP
FoReM BBS version for the MPP direct-connect modems.

  o  FoReM XL BBS -- by Matt Singer.
FoReM BBS updated to take advantage of BASIC XL from OSS.

  o  FoReM XE BBS -- by Matt Singer
This version of FOREM BBS requires the commercial BASIC XE cartridge in order
to run.  It is in the public domain and can import and export messages from
the Atari PRO! BBS EXPRESS-NET (7-bit text only, control ATASCII graphics are
reserved for message data-structure bytes). 

  o  FoReM XE Professional BBS / FoReM XEP BBS -- by Len Spencer
A re-write of FoReM XE BBS, last version was 5.4, Jan 5 1993.
FXEP requires an XL/XE computer with at least 128k of memory, the BASIC XE
cartridge from OSS/ICD, SpartaDOS 3.2 (this program will NOT work with any
other version), and at least 500K of storage.

FXEP is available at:

  o MBBBS (Message Base Bulletin Board System)
    -- early name for ATKeep, see above

  o  NITE-LITE BBS --  Paul Swanson's BBS with RAMdisk.
Paul Swanson was a programmer from the Boston, Massachusetts, USA, area.

"1983: Nite-Lite B.B.S. goes on the air. (Was it running A.M.I.S. ?) It is
called "Nite-Lite" because the computer monitor casts an eerie glow about the
room.  1984: Paul Swanson writes his own BBS hosting software for the ATARI
6502 8-bit computer.  He names it "Nite-Lite".  The Nite-Lite BBS hosting
software goes on to be the most successful commercial BBS software ever
written for the ATARI 6502 8-bit computer.  1989: Nite-Lite BBS puts in a
second line. (MichTron boards eventually take the place of all of the ATARI
Nite-Lite boards.)" - Winston Smith

This BBS was the first to support a RAMdisk, which Paul Swanson called a "V:"
device for "virtual disk".  This BBS was written in Atari BASIC and required a
joystick hardware "dongle" device.  This was notable as being one of the first
Atari 8-BIT BBSs that could actually go for a week without having to be
rebooted.  Pointers to the message base were kept in an Atari "very long
string" (for which Atari BASIC is famous).  The BBS would only have problems
(for the most part) if this string became corrupted.

  o  OASIS (the commercial version) / OASIS Jr. (the pd version)
The original OASIS BBS System was written by Rich Renner and Ralph Walden with
tech support and input from Leo Newman.  It was first published by OASIS BBS
Systems (Renner/Walden/Newman) in 1986, and distributed by Leo Newman.  Later,
the rights were transferred to Glenda Stocks/Z INNOVATORS, then later (1991)
to Jeff Williams ("Alf").

All machine language.  OASIS is very crash-resistant and comes with a "dial
out" screen so that the Sysop can use the BBS as a terminal program to call
and fetch files without having to bring the BBS down and reload a terminal
program.  OASIS supports "Door programs" which it refers to as "OASIS PAL
modules".  An excellent message system, and a complex file system.  It
consists of "file libraries" with suites of "file types".  There is quite a
bit of overhead involved in performing a download (which may be a good thing,
as it discourages file hogs).  OASIS IV performs networking.  SpartaDOS 3.2x
recommended, but any DOS supported.  R-Time 8 clock cartridge supported.

Glenda Stocks writes at :
I purchased the source code rights to OASIS and began marketing the BBS
software to Atari 8-bit enthusiasts around the world.  I felt that I had the
superior BBS software because I had programmed in the ability to run external
programs, including online games and user surveys.  I also had added color
prompts for IBM clone users who called Atari boards running my OASIS software.
Sometime in 1991...I sold the rights to OASIS to a man in Canada..

Jeff Williams ("Alf") writes: (12/6/02)
OASIS was around prior to either PRO or BBS Express IIRC. I don't know when
exactly it showed up, version 3.09 was the first one I remember seeing. What
made it nifty was it was very fast, being all assembler, and having some
different features that things like Forem & Carina didn't have. Compared to
something like Forem MPP at the time, it was kind of amazing.

Ralph Walden sold it to Glenda Stocks, who chopped it up into modules and sold
it as ver 4.7.  PRO was out by then, and was a much more complete offering
imo.  Glenda wrote some modules for 4.7, but it never really went anywhere
because the architecture was so cramped with her changes.

Eventually she gave up and sold me the source. I looked it over and realized
it was a mess and nothing was going to happen with it. I worked on a version 5
for a while, but never made much progress.

  o  SMART BBS --  by Marco Benton.
This program is written entirely in BASIC.  It expects to be running under a
SpartaDOS environment.  This BBS program uses a "modem clock string" rather
than an R-Time 8 cartridge in order to retrieve the current time.  It also
comes with an Atari BASIC game door called "Sabotage".

  o  TART-BOARD, by Bob Alleger
Early Atari BBS.

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Top Document: Atari 8-Bit Computers: Frequently Asked Questions
Previous Document: 10.1) What programs can log in to other computers via modem?
Next Document: 10.3) How can I read/write 8-bit Atari disks on an MS-DOS PC?

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