Will Price started Hermes while in 10th grade at boarding school and released it the following year. Hermes became very widely used by a large number of Macintosh BBS systems due to several factors including multi-line support and ease of use. Early in the development of Hermes, Will Price contacted Wayne Bell the author of WWIV BBS for MS-DOS for permission to use the "look and feel" of WWIV in Hermes without actually using any of the source code. Wayne gave the go ahead which meant that Will was able to use a best of breed text based interface for users while building an easy to use management interface on top of that for Macintosh-based Sysops. This factor gave Hermes a very familiar feel to most of the popular BBSs that existed on the PC side of the world while providing a Macintosh GUI management interface which was unique for the time in the BBS world.
Hermes also featured an application programming interface (API) for external application developers to extend the system. Hundreds of "externals" were written for Hermes providing extended functionality, games, sysop management tools, etc., and Olympus also served as a central location to download externals.
Hermes was written in Lightspeed Pascal, an early development environment for Macintosh. Over the course of its first few years, Hermes customers included thousands of sysops. Many customers from teenagers running BBSs in a bedroom to companies to governments would use Hermes. Will Price copied and framed a check from the CIA purchasing Hermes. He has no idea what their intent was in using Hermes. Hermes became the flag bearer of the Macintosh side of the BBS community as the sister product to WWIV.
In 1991, Will Price sold the Hermes rights and code to Lloyd Woodall, one of the more active sysops of a Hermes BBS who believed that his son could continue the development of Hermes. Will Price wanted to move on and create a next generation BBS system with a dynamic graphical user interface no longer based on simple text. Will Price and Mark Weaver, one of the authors of another piece of software called NovaLink, joined forces to create that system, but the development was simply too great a task. The vision of MDX, the successor to Hermes, as it was called internally, was similar to that of the web and Java, but 2 college students just could not complete that task in a reasonable time frame before the web came into being. The technology developed as part of that effort eventually became a piece of software called MacIntercomm acquired by New World Computing as Macintosh communications software for connecting to BBS systems. No technology from Hermes was carried over into the new company.
In 1998, after Hermes languished with very little development since the 1991 sale, Lloyd Woodall sold the rights to Hermes to Michael Alyn Miller. Michael made many contributions to Hermes including adding telnet support for logging in via the Internet, and support for Python based externals.
On May 27, 2013, Michael Alyn Miller announced on his blog that he was releasing Hermes II as open source BBS software. The source code for Hermes II 3.5.11 is freely available for download and compilation on the GitHub website. A detailed, in-depth Hermes II 3.5.11 compilation guide is likewise freely offered by the Armageddon BBS website.
Hermes was developed as a "classic" Mac OS application, so cannot run natively on Mac OS X or Intel Macintosh hardware. However, the Armageddon BBS website also offers detailed instructions for running Hermes II 3.5.11 in a virtual environment, using VirtualBox virtualization software for Mac OS X and the SheepShaver Mac Classic emulator. The type of setup described in this tutorial will keep a Hermes II BBS running indefinitely, and immune to any future Mac OS X updates, as long as VirtualBox is kept updated and compatible with the latest OS X release from Apple.
- hermesbbs.com, official website for Hermes BBS
- Hermes II 3.5.11 source code compilation guide
- Running Hermes II 3.5.11 in a virtual environment on OS X