The Major BBS

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The Major BBS/Worldgroup Server
Original author(s) Tim Stryker and others
Developer(s) Galacticomm, Inc., Elwynor Technologies, LLC
Initial release 1986 (1986)
Stable release Worldgroup Server 3.3
Development status Maintained with community support
Written in Turbo C; Borland C++
Operating system MS-DOS with DOS extender
Unix (MBBS 6.x/WG 1.x only)
Windows NT (WG 3.x only)
Platform IBM PC compatible; SPARC, HP/UX, Linux, SCO (Unix variant)
Available in English
Type Bulletin board system
License Proprietary software (source code available by separate license)
Worldgroup Manager
Developer(s) Galacticomm, Inc., Elwynor Technologies, LLC
Initial release 1995 (1995)
Development status Community Support
Operating system Microsoft Windows
Platform IBM PC compatible
Type Bulletin board system GUI client

The Major BBS (sometimes MajorBBS or MBBS) was bulletin board software (a bulletin board system server) developed between 1986 and 1999 by Galacticomm. In 1995 it was renamed Worldgroup Server and bundled with a user client interface program named Worldgroup Manager for Microsoft Windows. Originally DOS based, two of the versions were also available as Unix-based edition, and the last versions were also available for Windows NT-based servers.

Galacticomm headquarters (4101 S.W. 47 Ave., Suite 101, Fort Lauderdale, FL) in August 1994
Galacticomm logo
Worldgroup logo

History[edit]

The Major BBS was developed by Tim Stryker and launched in 1986 by Stryker's company, Galacticomm, Inc., as a demonstration of the abilities of the Galacticomm Software Breakthrough Library (or GSBL). The GSBL was a powerful set of assembler routines written for IBM and compatible PCs that allowed up to 32 simultaneous serial port or dialup connections to a single software instance without the need for an external multitasker. It was licensed to developers for varied uses, such as communications systems, bank systems, and real estate systems. Eventually, The Major BBS was enhanced enough that it became a marketable product in its own right. By late 1987, Galacticomm was licensing more copies of The Major BBS than the GSBL by itself. The GSBL continued to be enhanced, expanding to 64 users by 1988, then 256 by 1992, with The Major BBS's line capacity expanding as a result.

Because it was one of the few multi-line bulletin board systems, MBBS software was known for fostering online communities and an interactive online experience where users were able to interact with each other via Teleconference (chat rooms) and multiplayer games. This flexibility spawned a small industry of Independent Software Vendors (ISV) who began developing MBBS add-ons, which ranged from shopping malls (what would now be called shopping cart software) to online role playing games.

The Major BBS allowed incoming connections via modems on telephone lines, IPX networks, and X.25 packet-switched networks. In the mid-1990s, the offering expanded to include TCP/IP by the ISV Vircom, a Canadian company that has since become well known for its anti-spam/anti-virus software, shortly followed by Galacticomm's own TCP/IP add-on, the Internet Connection Option (ICO), which was derived from another ISV's offering.

In 1992, the Major BBS was selected by the National Library of Medicine as the access mechanism for the Grateful Med medical journal system, just prior to universal access via the World Wide Web.

Worldgroup[edit]

Seeking to compete with America Online, Galacticomm extended The Major BBS software to communicate in a client–server model with a custom program. The MBBS software was renamed Worldgroup Server, and released in 1995 with the version number restarting at 1.0; the included user-side client software was named Worldgroup Manager (but sometimes known as Worldgroup Client) and ran in Microsoft Windows.

As version 3.0 in 1997, the first 32-bit version of Worldgroup Server was released for Windows NT, and other versions were simultaneously continued. This release finally focused on an active HTML web community, after three years of concentrating on the original client–server strategy. The DOS version of the server was discontinued with[clarification needed] version 3.1.

Demise[edit]

Although Worldgroup initially had some success, the initial proprietary client–server model was an unfortunate strategic choice, as the world wide web was just emerging as a dominant phenomenon. The popularity of the text-terminal-based BBSes, as well as America Online's proprietary client model, faded as online use became web-oriented. Galacticomm's slow response in adapting to the web-based online model probably was fatal.

Founder Tim Stryker committed suicide on August 6, 1996, in Colorado, and the company was sold by his widow Christine to a group headed by Yannick Tessier, owner of Tessier Technologies, who developed software as an ISV. As Galacticomm Technologies, Inc., Tessier and Peter Berg led the company toward an initial public offering, which failed in 1998. The company discontinued operations in 1999 and was foreclosed upon by their primary lender; the lender acquired the company's assets through the foreclosure in 2002. The company's assets were purchased by an ISV from the bank in 2005.[1]

Timeline[edit]

  • 1986: MajorBBS 1.0 — not released
  • 1986: MajorBBS 2.0 — shareware
  • 1987: MajorBBS 3.0 — commercial software
  • 1988: MajorBBS 5.0
  • 1989: MajorBBS 5.07
  • 1990: MajorBBS 5.2
  • 1991: MajorBBS 5.3 — includes Novell NetWare support
  • 1992: MajorBBS 6.0 — included Phar Lap protected mode capability
  • 1993: MajorBBS 6.1 — multilingual
  • 1994: MajorBBS 6.25 — Internet Connection Option (ICO) TCP/IP; Unix version available
  • 1995: Worldgroup 1.0 — introduced Microsoft Windows client; final Unix server version
  • 1996: Worldgroup 2.0 — included plug-in for Netscape
  • 1997: Worldgroup 3.0 — first server version for 32-bit Windows NT
  • 1999: Galacticomm ends operations after failed IPO
  • 2002: Galacticomm assets foreclosed upon by lender
  • 2005: Galacticomm assets sold by lender to a current ISV[1]

Technical information[edit]

  • Initially, a system's linecount depended on the user limit of the GSBL purchased with the BBS. The GSBL (and thus the BBS) was offered in 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, or 64 user editions. Later, with the release of version 6, the concept of user six-packs was introduced. System operators (SysOps) purchased as many packs as they needed to add additional lines, up to 256.
  • Due to a limitation of the 16-bit architecture of MS-DOS, Major BBS was limited to a maximum of 255 incoming lines (plus one 'local console'). In practice, it was extremely difficult to scale to this level due to the 16MB RAM limitation of the Phar Lap 286 memory extender in use, as well as the physical limitations on connecting 255 modems to a single computer.
  • Developers were sold development kits that allowed add-ons to be written in C/C++
  • All data files were stored using a Btrieve format.
  • It was necessary for the system to go down for maintenance each evening in order to re-index data files as well as running the cleanup routines for the main system and its addons.

Add-on software[edit]

Connection add-ons[edit]

  • Vircom TCP/IP — allowed the system to link to the Internet, provide both inbound and outbound FTP and Telnet services, and provide e-mail service. The add-on also allowed MajorBBS to provide dialup Internet access via SLIP and PPP. Vircom later went on to produce software solutions to combat spam.
  • Vircom RADIUS — a RADIUS server which allowed MajorBBS to act as the central authentication and billing server for any number of applications such as Internet services.

Games[edit]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Found a bunch of source files...". The Major BBS Restoration Project. 2011-02-18. Retrieved 2011-04-27.