My Haunted Mansion BBS

NOTE: Unfortunately, the WordPress theme I am using does not expand, even on wide screens. I will replace the BBS text output with images soon.

Since I had so much fun describing how I shared photos using an internet FTP server in the mid-1990s, I thought it might be fun to share something from even earlier…

Before the World Wide Web came to be a thing in the 1990s, we had bulletin board systems (BBS) in the 1980s. I spent endless hours on my old Radio Shack Color Computer dialing in to other people’s computers where I would read messages from others and post my own. There were hundreds of these systems operating in Houston, Texas in the early 1980s.

Eventually, I ran my own BBS. It went through many incarnations over the years, with the final one running in 1995 in Des Moines, Iowa. That system was called DeltaBoard. The “delta” was for change, because the system had many different themes and you’d get a random one each time you called in.

One of the themes was Haunted Mansion. I recently found my old BBS software and thought I’d show you what it looked like.

Connection Established

When you dialed in, the first thing you would see was the system ID message:

When hinges creek in doorless chambers, and strange and frightening sounds
echo through the halls...  Whenever candlelights flicker where the air is
deathly still - that is the time when ghosts are present - practicing their
terror with ghoulish delight...
        .                .      .    \\  .  /--------------------------\
Welcome, foolish mortals, to the...  //.   / .  .  _  . . . . ___ _ __  \
   _   .  .  __________  .  .       /_     | |__| /_\ | | |\|  | |_ | \ |
  (_)     __/ ___  ___ \__   .   __/  \  . | |  | | | |_| | |  | |_ |_/ |
 .   .   /__\ |_|  |_| /__\   __/    /_    | .  .  _  . .  __ .  _  . . |
   .     |[]| .. __ .. |[]|  /  .   / /  . | |\/| /_\ |\| (_  | / \ |\| |
     . + |--| # |  | # |--| +        /_    | |  | | | | | __) | \_/ | | |
      _|_|__|___|__|___|__|_|_   .    / .  \                            /
 __---         /    \         ---__         \--------------------------/
 
I am your host.  Your ... Ghost Host.  Kindly step all the way in please and
make room for everyone.  There's no turning back now . . .
 
Please tell me your name, or type 'NEW' if this is your first visit.

Bad password

If you couldn’t remember your password, you’d see this:

Ah, there you are.  And just in time.  There's a little matter I forgot to
mention...  Beware of entering the wrong password.
 
Hurry back, hurry back.  Be sure to bring your real password if you decide to
join us.  Make final arrangements now.  We've been dying to have you...
 
 
 
 
 
The mansion door slams shut behind you...
 
                                                               Rest In Peace.

Welcome, foolish mortal!

Once you logged in successfully, you would be presented the message of the day:

Our tour begins here in this gallery where you see paintings of some of our
guests as they appeared in their corruptable, mortal state...
 
Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you
sense a disquieting meamorphosis.  Is this haunted room actually stretching? 
Or is it your imagination?
 
And consider this dismaying observation:  this chamber has no windows, and no
doors.  Which offers you this chilling challenge...  To find a way out!
 
Of course, there's always _my_ way . . .           ___-------___
                                                  /     RIP  _/ \
                                                  |             |
                                                  | Your        |
                                                  |\_   Name    |
                                                  |        Here |
                                                __|__:__.__.__:_|__

Orders, please.

After this, you would be presented with the main menu. It had all the various options you could do… It looked like this:

 
                  ..        /--------------------\        ..
                 _||_    @}| Haunted Mansion Menu |{@    _||_
                  ||        \--------------------/        ||
         ________/||\_______  _||____________||_  _______/||\_________  
        /                   \/                  \/                    \ 
       | {A} Solicitors        -}- Graveyard -{-   {L}ist Spirits Here |
       | {B}oo-letins...       {N} All Tombstones  {O}ther Mansions    |
       | {C}all Ghost Host     {P} Carve Tombstone {Q}uestionaires     |
       | {D}own/Uploads        {R} Read Tombstones {T}erminal Setup    |
       | {E} Playground        {!} List Crypts     {U} Spirit Listing  |
       | {F}eedback to Ghost     Private  Mail     {V}ideo Mode        |
       | {G}oodboo - Log Off   {M}orbid Mail       {W}orkspace         |
       | {H}elp                {S}end Morbid Mail  {X}pert Menu Toggle |
       | {I}nfo on Mansion     {K} Config Alias    {Y}our Vital Signs  |
       | {J}oin a Seance       {Z} Send File       {.} Today's Spirits |
       |                                                               |
       | {@} Change Password   {/} List Processes  {=} FAST Log Off!   |
       |_______________________________________________________________|

Ah, so punny. The message base was the “graveyard.” In case you were wondering what the other options where, here was the generic DeltaBoard menu:

                           ________________________
                           |                      |__
                           | DeltaBoard Main Menu | |
                           |______________________| |
                             |______________________|
       _________________________________________________________________
       |                                                               |__
       | [A)dvertisements       Public Messages    [L)ist Who's Online | |
       | [B)ulletins & News    [N)ews Reader/Net   [O)ther BBS List    | |
       | [C)hat with Allen     [P)ost Local Msg    [Q)uestionaires     | |
       | [D)own/Uploads        [R)ead Local Msgs   [T)erminal Setup    | |
       | [E)ntertainment       [!) List Msg Area   [U)ser Listing      | |
       | [F)eedback to Allen     Private  Mail     [V)ideo Mode        | |
       | [G)oodbye - Log Off   [M)ail Read         [W)orkspace         | |
       | [H)elp with System    [S)end Mail         [X)pert Menu Toggle | |
       | [I)nformation         [K) Config Alias    [Y)our Statistics   | |
       | [J)oin a Conference   [Z) Send File       [.) Today's Callers | |
       |                                                               | |
       | [@) Change Password   [/) List Processes  [=) FAST Log Off!   | |
       |_______________________________________________________________| |
         |_______________________________________________________________|

Farewell…

And lastly, when the user was done and logged off, they would see this final message:

Ah, there you are.  And just in time.  There's a little matter I forgot to
mention:  Beware of hitchhiking ghosts.  They have selected you to fill our
quota, and they'll haunt you until you return. 
 
     If you would like to join our jamboree,
     There's a simple rule that's compulsory:
          Mortals pay a token fee...
          Rest in peace; the haunting's free!
     So hurry back, we would like your company...
 
The ghost will follow you home...
 
Hurry back, hurry back.  Be sure to bring your death certificate if you decide
to join us.  Make final arrangements now.  We've been dying to have you...
 
 
 
The mansion door slams shut behind you...
 
                                                               Rest In Peace. 

And more!

Other themes included Star Trek (parody), a hotel, a medieval castle, a groovy “den of iniquity”. It was such a great time back then, before point-and-click and pictures took over correspondence.

But who knows … now that I have found my old software, maybe I will resurrect this Haunted Mansion BBS sometime and make it available over the Internet.

Until next time…

Sharing digital photos in the 90s

A long, long time ago, I got my first digital camera and wanted to share photos online. The problem was, back then a website might only give you 512K (five thousands bytes, not mega, not giga) of storage. I could only put a few small photos online at a time.

To work around this, I would share photos directly from my computer by running a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) server on it. I would dial in to my dail-up Internet Service Provider (ISP) that I dialed into with a dial-up modem (get the point?) and let it run overnight for folks to connect to and download photos.

I am confident I had the largest collection of Disney photos online anywhere on the Internet.

I had a script (a DOS .bat batch file) I would run any time I wanted to turn the service on. It would upload a customize web page to my website that had the current link to my computer at home. When I would shut it down, another script would upload a “the server is not available right now” page.

It was cutting edge.

When you’d connect, you’d see something like this:

Time travel commencing…

When a user would connect (all via a text interface, not the world wide web), they would see this:

[Welcome Before Login]
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
| INTERNET EXPLORER USERS!!!  Having problems?  Try NETSCAPE!  It works :)
| Also, PLEASE set your "ftp" configuration to send your e-mail address as
| the password.  If you don't know how to do this, try NETSCAPE!  :)
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
           Welcome to the Al's Place FTP Photo Archives Server!

Hello, user connecting from [$origin].  Please login as "anonymous"
and use your COMPLETE e-mail address as the password.  Want your own
login account?  mailto://alsplace@pobox.com and ask!

It’s funny thinking back to the days when the Microsoft stuff was just not very good at Internet. Above, “[$origin]” was replaced with the IP address of the user visiting. All connections on the internet at tracked, and the same was true even 25 years ago.

I had a public anonymous account set up so anyone could connect. Once they entered the correct username, they would see this:

[Welcome After Login]
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hello, [$user], and welcome!  There is/are currently [$usersonline] user(s) 
online (out of [$maxusers] allowed).

7/3/98 *** Want your own private account here?  E-mail me for details!

Welcome to the *Al's Place* FTP server.  This site is only available
when I am logged into the network:

     WWW - http://www.pobox.com/~alsplace/online.html

Here you will over ***4,600*** digital photos (over 220 megs) from
theme park and amusement places such as:  Disneyland, Walt Disney World,
Kennywood, Six Flags Georgia, Paramount's Gret America, Adventureland,
Universal Studios, and many, many others.

Most images are in 640x480x16.7 JPG format and about 55K in size.  You
are welcome to use any of the images on your web site if you please give
me credit (such as a link back to my site).

Enjoy!  And please drop me a line if you encounter any problems
or have any specific photo requests!  mailto://[$email]

My ICQ number is 373286.  Page me if you need to.

Wow, 4600 whole photos back in 1998! The first generation digital camera I had would take a 640×480 resolution photo and store it at around 55K, which is why that many photos only took 220 megabytes. (Well, I say “only” today, but back then, that was a ton of space. It would have cost a fortune to pay for that much storage on a web host provider. Just getting a custom domain name was $75 back then – adjust that for inflation in 2020 and you’ll get the idea of how much it was then, compared to $8 today.)

And does anyone remember ICQ? “I Seek You” was an early chat program. I had started out using one called PowWow. PowWow is long gone, but some variation of ICQ still runs today (or did the last time I checked). My user number was pretty early considering they were in the tens of millions (wiki says 42 million daily users in 2010).

Now, although I had an anonymous account that anyone could use, I did ask that they use their e-mail address for the password just so I could know who was visiting. If they did not give it, they would see this:

[Anonymous Denied]

Anonymous users are currently not allowed to log in.  Please send e-mail
to [$email] asking for access.

You are likely seeing this if you didn't use your real e-mail address
for the password when you logged in.  Please be considerate and at least
let me know who you are -- thanks!

I could shut off the service at any time, and then users would see this:

[System is Closed]
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Al's Place is currently closed.  Please try back later, or sent mail to
[$email] asking what the problem it.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And anytime I needed to shut it down, any user currently online would see this:

[System Shutdown]
The system is being shut down.  Please check back again later, as
sometimes I just have to take the server offline to reboot the system.

Since I was running this on my 486 Toshiba laptop, and was using a very slow dial-up connection, I would limit the number of users that could be online at any time. It was slow enough as it was trying to download a 55K image over dialup.

[No More Users Allowed]
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
| INTERNET EXPLORER USERS!  Try NETSCAPE.  It seems to logout properly
| from FTP sites such as this.  IE seems to "hang" holding on to the
| connection.  Most of the time when the system says it is full is due to
| Internet Explorer apparently holding on to IDLE connections.  Sorry!
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sorry, but the Al's Place FTP Photo Archive Server has a limit of [$maxusers]
users logged in at the same time.  Currently, there are [$usersonline] users
logged in right now ([$anonsonline]/[$maxanons] anonymous).  Please try back
again in a bit and see if the system is less busy.

NOTE:  If you are trying to connect using a web browser, each access
counts as a "user".  Please note that this site feeds off of a computer
that is connected to the internet by a 56K dialup modem (when I am
online) so doing multiple downloads is going to make things go much
slower for all connected.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I even had online help!

[Help]
Sorry, no help is available currently.  I hope to have some in the
future.  Until then, feel free to leave mail to [$email] and
ask any questions you may have.

Oh…

Well, at least I could ban troublesome users, and they’d see this:

[Your Class is Banned]
Your user class is currently banned from accessing the system.

I know you are stunned to know people were being jerks on the internet even in the 1990s.

And lastly, when the user was ready to disconnect, they would see this:

[Goodbye]
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thank you for visiting the Al's Place FTP Photo Archives server!
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And that, my digital friends, is how folks were able to browse and download digital photos back in the 1990s before websites were able to handle large photo galleries.

Enjoy surfing in the 2020s! It’s much nicer than it was 25 years ago.

Until next time…

My original web site in 1997…

My first “personal home page” (today we call them websites) was started in 1995 thanks to a site called GeoPages. They gave anyone who wanted one a tiny bit of space on their public web server. (I seem to recall it was about 512K of storage.)

GeoPages was later changed to GeoCities. My site, “Al’s Place”, stayed there for a few years before I got annoyed with the ads and needed much more space, requiring me to move to a different hosting provider.

But I digress.

Thanks to the Wayback Machine over at the Internet Archives, you can now see the earliest copy of my website they have indexed. It was archived on February 3, 1999. The content itself looks like it was last updated in 1997 since there is a note on the site explaining that I’d moved on to a different hosting location.

Take a look at how the web began…

https://web.archive.org/web/19990202065140/http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/1842/

My original “personal home page” circa 1997!

I am excited to find this snapshot, though sadly it doesn’t have any of the earlier versions. It’s at least a look at my site in its final form at the old GeoCities location. I had looked for this in the archives a few years ago and it wasn’t there, so I was surprised to find it.

Of special interest to me was my link to the “Banks Family Vacation” web page that inspired me to get a digital camera and start taking and sharing digital photos back in 1996.

Although the link on my archived site doesn’t work, it at least gave me what I needed to track it down in the Wayback Machine. Ladies and gentlemen, here may be the very first “take and post pictures from Disney” site that ever existed on the Internet:

https://web.archive.org/web/19990117025019/http://www.neosoft.com/sbanks/vacation/vacation.html

That capture was from January 1999.

In an upcoming article, I’ll share some more details on what was going on back then.

Until next time…

Disneyland’s third theme park in 2000

Yes, Virginia. In 2000, Disneyland did announce intentions to build a third theme park with initial construction beginning in 2003 and completion by 2010.

They even had a website about it… here is what it looked like in 2000:

https://web.archive.org/web/20000817041730/http://www.thirdthemepark.com:80/

It has some before and after images of the area around the resort that are stunningly different. This is what was going on leading to Disney’s California Adventure opening.

Several things they mentioned did make it to the resort, but not into a third theme park.

More on this later.

Until next time…

Before the world wide web, we had newsgroups.

Yes, Virginia, there was a time when the Internet was small enough that discussions about Disney were held in only a few places. The largest was probably the Internet newsgroups, which were accessible to anyone with Internet access.

I recently decided to look at some of the posts I made back then on the alt.disney.disneyland group and the rec.arts.disney.parks groups. It’s quite a time trip, seeing things announced like the first redo of Pirates of the Caribbean, or McDonald’s coming into the parks.

I found the first Internet post I made announcing me moving my “media archive site” to a domain:

Just a quick FYI for anyone who has been visiting my
http://disneyparks.simplenet.com photo archive site…  All the pictures have now moved to my new domain, www.disneyfans.com.  The simplenet site will likely be closed down sometime in the next few weeks.

Also, I’d like to mention that the Disney Vacation Club site,
www.dvcfans.com, is now hosted at my server.  If anyone would like to have a subdomain there (such as “weare.disneyfans.com” or
hauntedmansion.disneyfans.com“) let me know 🙂 What good is a domain if you can’t make full use of it?  🙂

Lastly, I am scheduled to be in California the first week of May for a
work trip, and if I make it out there I’ll be making evening trips to
Disneyland to get more pics.  If anyone has any Disneyland photo
requests, please drop me some e-mail and I’ll make a list and see what I can do.

See ya,
— 
 Allen Huffman – alsp…@pobox.com – http://www.pobox.com/~alsplace
-/- Theme Parks/Disney, CoCo/OS-9, and over 11,00 Digital Photos! -\-

My post to rec.arts.disney.parks on 4/21/2000

Heh, over 11,000 photos. How quaint.

If you really want to see some history, take a look through these old messages via Google Groups:

I’ve found posts I made in 1996 after I purchased my first digital camera. At the time, there were practically no Disney photos online. The ones that existed mostly came from film cameras and folks with scanners. It’s hard to imagine the internet before images became common!

I also found posts from the week I was in at Magic Kingdom when the Skyway stopped operating.

The earliest post of mine I can find is from June 1, 1996, and I mention upgrading my digital camera memory, so that must have been real soon after I got it.

Fun times.

A long, long fun time ago.

Until next time…