Old Computer Challenge - Days 6 and 7

Jul 17, 2023


Reading time: 5 minutes

So the last two days of the Old Computer Challenge went by in the blink of an eye, and not a lot has happened, so I’m putting them together in one post. But I still wanted to note a few things down, and I might also a wrap-up some time next week.

Day 6

It was boiling hot outside (35°C) and I am just completely useless in these kinds of temperatures (in Germany we also don’t tend to have AC, so no way to cool my apartment down). So I was just lying around most of the day, trying to move as little as possible.

But in the evening it cooled down and I thought I’d explore the “old” site of the internet some more, this time in the form of looking at Bulletin Board Systems (BBS).

Now these are definitely a product and technology of the 80s, and I am too young to have experienced them in their time (in the 80s I was busy learning to walk, talk and digest solid food), so I don’t have any nostalgia for them, but some are still around and some are around again, so I thought I’d have a look.

My first thought was, I want the authentic experience, so I’ll try it on real hardware! I still have my dads old C64 here, but I don’t have a modem for it, so that idea was scrapped immediately.

Ok, how about BMC64 on a Raspberry Pi? I tried it before and it felt like a pretty authentic C64 experience (esp. on a Raspi 400), but it doesn’t have network drivers, so no luck there.

C64 mini maybe? But again, it can’t access the net. Next.

Raspberry Pi with an emulator? I didn’t feel like going thorugh the trouble of downloading an image and setting everything up, so nope.

Okay, Vice emulator on my PC. Here I cheated because I used my regular computer, not the slow one, because running emulation on it might have been too much to ask of it. But after downloading the emulator and googling around for a suitable terminal software I realized that the process of getting it running might be a bit more involved than I anticipated, and I really didn’t have the patience, so I abandoned that too.

So eventually I settled on downloading syncterm, which can emulate all kinds of old terminals, including the C64s, and finally I could google the addresses of some BBSs and see what it was like back 40 years ago.

And I realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t my cup of tea. While it was interesting to see how much love went into some of these boards, I just couldn’t really get into them. Maybe on authentic hardware and an old CRT it will be a better experience, but looking at huge ugly fonts on a modern laptop display just didn’t feel good.

The BBC from The Old Net even has the capability to open modern websites on it, so I tried a few, but again, the font is huge and ugly and it wasn’t easy to read… I think for me this is missing the nostalgia factor that makes the experience special. But without the rose-tinted glasses on it felt a bit too old-school for my taste. My nostalgia for C64 and Amiga lies in the games, and my experiences with the online world began towards the end of the 90s, so that’s what feels nostalgic for me and what I enjoy revisiting.

Still, it was an interesting experience and I learned something in the process, if only about myself ;)

Day 7

And this day is even shorter to wrap up, because I was at a family gathering all day and didn’t use my computer much at all. I only had my phone with my and did my best to stick to my rules of only using it for communication, but I may have accidentally opened the browser once or twice…


And with that the Old Computer Challenge is coming to an end!

It was fun, frustrating and enlightening at various times! The best thing was by far the community on the fediverse, IRC and reading all the blog entries and experiences of the other participants! I can’t wait what @solene has in store for us next year and I will definitely participate again and try to keep in touch with some of the people I met along the way. And for that alone the experience was worth it!

I will summarize my thoughts in a few days, so there will be one more post, but for now I’m relieved to have a computer that feels fast again to work with ;)