New Adventures in BBSing

Posted by Alex Lee on 28 September 2014 | 953 Comments

Tags: Apple IIGS, BBS, Telnet, KEGS, GSPort, MegaTerm, ANSITerm, Spectrum, ProTERM

In the Facebook Apple II enthusiasts' group, a discussion led to a revelation when it comes to portraying the visual history of the Apple IIGS and its communication programs.

Matt Owenby, aka ‘The Red Flame', posted nostalgically about the IIGS specific colour ANSI terminal program he co-wrote back in the early 90s. I immediately responded, thanking him for such an awesome freeware program that finally got us IIGS users up to par in supporting colour ANSI that most BBSs were using back then, which until then, we had to make do with monochrome terminal emulation.


MegaTerm Title Screen


True, programs like ANSITerm and Spectrum came later to do a great job of displaying colour ANSI, but their focus was on better typography rather than colour, using the 640 super hi-res graphics mode and its limited colour palette, whereas MegaTerm used the 320 SHR mode, sacrificing font quality for better colour and to me, this looked better and didn't affect readability of the type at all. It ran from ProDOS 8, was written in assembly and ran super smooth - just the way I especially liked my IIGS software back then.

Matt revealed that they had basically finished MegaTerm v2.0 back in the day, just lost motivation to distribute it more publically. The source code exists on the Apple II mirrors site, and Antoine Viganu quickly assembled it in Merlin 16+ for us to enjoy.

It was also revealed that part of their motivation for writing MegaTerm was for playing ANSI based games on various BBSes. Then he revealed a screen shot of MegaTerm logged into a game of Trade Wars 2002 and I asked how he was able to do that - MegaTerm didn't support TCP for telnetting to various BBSs you can access via the internet. I'd always lamented at how the BBS era had passed and how I could ever hope to visually capture that era via Apple IIGS software as part of the visual history of our sweet 16.


Trade Wars 2002 Title Screen


Matt said it was simple - you use the KEGS emulator (or GSPort and possibly ActiveGS, which I haven't tested yet) and use the old ATDT commands. So, ‘' in MegaTerm will take you to the Colorado Springs Central Net via telnet. Just like an old school BBS! How fantastic! KEGS is actually doing all the heavy lifting here, and much to my surprise, has been a feature for many years.

Now I CAN produce a visual history of how IIGS communications programs worked and how each of them tried to overcome the IIGS video limitations when it came to rendering ANSI content thanks to KEGS and using different terminal apps to take screen grabs from.


Telnetting to a BBS with MegaTerm

Coloradio Springs Central Net viewed with MegaTerm


To that end, I've assembled a collection of IIGS terminal applications (including MegaTerm v2.0) in a new 32 meg ProDOS volume. While it doesn't fit the full 32 meg (yet?) it's a fairly comprehensive collection, more so in the shareware/freeware department, as I've found many terminal programs I never knew about back in the day, as well as hopefully having the latest versions of each of them.


 Communication Apps (A collection of apps that you can telnet to BBSs on the net with KEGS/GSPort ~9.6meg)



Colorado Springs Central Net viewed with MegaTerm


If you get a kick out of using KEGS/GSPort with IIGS comms programs to telnet to them, feel free to take screen shots of your new adventures in BBSing, just as I plan to myself, and send them in - I'll consider any and all submissions for inclusion in the coffee table book.


Colorado Springs Central Net viewed with MegaTerm


If only the IIGS had supported in its hardware separate background and text colours per character of text, it wouldn't have been such a struggle for coders to come up with these unique solutions. But it's still those cute little flaws that keep a guy interested...and us interested in all these wonderful hacks years later.


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