owned my first modem back in 1994, a Taiwan-made Prolink 1414LE 14400 bps
modem. Owning a modem was considered "a rich-man's want" and morever, the
Internet was relatively little known to many. You may ask, "What about
modem-to-modem head-on games like "Command & Conquer" or "StarCraft"?
Well, that used to be a couple of years in the future...
"speedy" 14.4 Kbps modem cost me a whopping S$400 but with some tie-in
offers from TeleView, it just cost S$99. The uses of a modem in 1994 was
limited. Rather, it was used mainly to
Bulletin Board Services, of BBS as well-known to many of those days. A
BBS is not quite as graphical as what you know see on the Internet.
It is built upon DOS-based ANSi text graphics. The SysOps, or System Operator
of the BBS generally uses more popular software such as RemoteAccess or
PCBoard to run their BBS. A terminal program is used to dial-up a BBS and
it functions basically like text-based web browser.
special point to note about BBSes in Singapore is that most are single-node
systems operated by students. A single-node BBS allows only one person
to log-in and use the services provided by the BBS. A fixed amount of online
time is allocated to that log-in account and the next person can only log-in
when the former log-off or runs out of time.
main problem with single-node BBSes is enduring the redialling sessions
and beating the other callers to getting a successful login to your favourite
BBS. This process can take forever especially when dialing-up the popular
feeling of getting a successful
login can be exhilirating, especially when you hear the
modem's "handshaking" process...
beep beep... beep toot beep... zzz zzz..., followed by a welcome screen
decorated with beautiful ANSi graphics, "Welcome to XYZ BBS!" after a successful
login. A popular single-node BBS can serve as many as 50 users a day, if
it runs 24 hours a day with each user allocated 30 minutes online time.
BBSes features certain themes and caters to a specific group of people
with a particular interest. Others are general and have diversified interests
among its' users. It was quite a challenge for SySops to attract new users
to their BBS especially if there were some 400 BBSes in operation around
the island at it's peak. Most BBSes are operated free-of-charge for callers
of their BBS. The cost of operating / maintaining the BBS is often absorbed
by the SySop although some SySops do accept monetary contributions from
their users. The present BBS scene is rather pathetic now with the advent
of the World Wide Web. Although some 100 or less BBSes are still in operation,
not all are doing well.
started my own BBS in 1995 when I was exposed to the lively and active
BBS community. After doing some "homework", I've setup my PC to run a BBS
with the following hardware config:- 486DX2-66 Intel PC; 420MB HDD; and
a 2X CD-ROM Drive. The software I used were RemoteAccess 2.02+ running
in MS-DOS 5.0 and DesqView as my DOS "multitasker".
much testing and smoothing out problems with the RemoteAccess configurations
with my best friend, Jackson Ng, the hardwork paid off and Starlight Express
BBS, the official name of my BBS went "live" on 8 January 1995. Much to
my unexpected delight, more than 50 people signed up my BBS in less than
3 days. It ran 120 days until one fateful Saturday morning on the 7 May
1995, my HDD suffered a severe crash. Starlight Express was lost and all
seems lost for me.
Starlight Express BBS was online for 4 months, 315 members signed up for
its service. It was also the home for JWare and DraZy Software Productions.
It also was host to the Legend of the Red Dragon (L.O.R.D.) doorgames competition
and attracted 32 participants
competing for top rankings for fun and for prizes too. But the hapiness
ended abruptly after that HDD crash. On the bright side, operating the
Starlight Express left me with fond memories. I've made friendships, had
with different people, learnt
PC technical knowledge as well as the responsibilitles of being a SySop.
of you must be wondering at this moment: "What has The Starlight Flagship
(or Express?) got to do with this bulletin board stuff?" "You mean to say
your BBS was it?", but my BBS was never a
contender for that title at all. However, if you have guessed that it was
my Prolink 1414LE modem, as mentioned earlier, you are right! This "little
black box" never fail me in any event and had remained faithful even after
the passing of "The Starlight Express Universe".
I recalled, when I had wanted to sell my Prolink in favour of a faster
U.S. Robotics 28.8 Kbps modem, Jackson jokingly chided me, "Hey! How can
you sell your trustworthy modem just like that?" "It is just like your
"Starlight Express" flagship, serving you well throughout it's duration
of existence." I had agreed with him totally about this. However, my Prolink
was sold to his friend. It will be forever remembered as the flagship of
"The Starlight Express".
|December 25, 1998
Revised on January 07, 1999