Earth Art BBS was featured in a
Charleston Post & Courier article

From "The South's Oldest Daily Newspaper" The Charleston Post & Courier:
Top of Page 1 Style Section heading: Computer bulletin boards abound 1-C

                             COMPUTER BILLBOARDS
                         Log on - Lowcountry's Online
                         (Published February 15, 1994)

* INTERACTIVE: Local bulletin boards let PC users communicate without
breaking the bank.  By David MacDougall of The Post and Courier staff.

Got a question about a medical problem?  Want to share your enthusiasm
for Rush Limbaugh?  Or trade recipes with folks who bake bread?  Or
download new programs for your computer?  Want to talk Gamecocks or

If you have a computer equipped with a modem, maybe it's time you
stopped playing solitaire and started exploring the world of online

You can log onto one of the big commercial online services such as
Prodigy, CompuServe or America Online, but they can be expensive, and
because they are so vast, they can also be overwhelming.

Local computer bulletin boards, or BBSes, provide a way to explore
cyberspace without emptying your bank account.

Today, Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon is to announce the opening
of the Charleston County Sheriff's Office BBS, which began operating
earlier this month.  It has one level of access for regular users and a
special level of access for sworn law enforcement officers.  In addition
to discussion groups about law enforcement, the CCSO BBS offers
discussion groups for crime victims and for members of 12 step programs
such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Cannon plans to demonstrate the BBS, which was purchased with
confiscated drug money, today at 3 p.m. at the St. Andrews Branch of the
Charleston County Library off Sam Rittenburg Boulevard.

There are about 80 other BBSes in the Charleston area and most carry
information, entertainment and online discussion groups or conferences at
the local, regional and national levels.

Topics of the conferences, also known as echoes, run from attention
deficit disorder to zymurgy (beer making), from Rush Limbaugh to the
Grateful Dead, from paganism to Christianity, from stock car racing to
Star Trek.

"You name it, and believe me, it's available online somewhere." says
Bob Chapman, who operates Earth Art BBS.  Chapman got interested in
BBSing after logging on to CompuServe in the early '80's.  "From the
moment I got on to CompuServe, I was fascinated," Chapman says.  I
couldn't believe I was online this big computer at the same time
hundreds of other people from all over the world were hooked up to it."

But his early CompuServe bills were about $100 a month, Chapman says.
"That's when I looked into BBSes.  I got a list of BBSes with 800
numbers from CompuServe.  Then I learned there were local BBSes."

Chapman's interest continued to grow, and in 1991 he set up his own
board becoming a "sysop," which is short for system operator.

Earth Art BBS, equipped with a 486DX-50 Mhz computer with 32
megabytes of random access memory and a 660 megabyte hard drive, is set
up at Ambassador Graphics and Wildlife Gallery on Ashley Phosphate Road.
Chapman says anyone interested in computer bulletin boards can visit the
gallery and see one in operation.

About 2,400 people from around the country log into Earth Art BBS,
Chapman says.  Many are Lowcountry residents.  Chapman has mingled his
BBS hobby with his concern for the environment and the family wildlife
art business.  You can log into Earth Art and join environmental
discussion groups.  You can also download wildlife art and duck stamp

Chapman also is moderator of the Green Conference on X*Press, a
commercial service that sends news feeds to millions of cable users
and satellite dish owners around the world.  Some local cable TV
companies, Chapman says, provide X*Press as a premium along with cable
TV.  The signal is carried on the cable line into subscribers' homes; a
signal splitter allows hook-up to a computer.

Chapman says he's trying to encourage local cable operators to carry

Because of its user-friendly menus, Earth Art BBS has been recognized
by Online Access Magazine as one of the Top 10 Best BBSes in the country for
new users, Chapman says.

Another local BBS geared towards beginners is Ashley Oaks BBS,
operated by Yvonne Rea.  "I set the board up for that first-time user,"
Rea says.

Ashley Oaks carries several message echoes.  It also features online
interactive games.  "My favorite game is Scrabble," Rea says.  "I have
about 50 people playing scrabble on my board."

In addition to games and helpful advice for newcomers, Ashley Oaks
carries the most up-to-date list of area bulletin boards and their phone
numbers.  Rea gave permission for the list to be published with this

On the Medical Forum BBS, operated by Shelley Crawford, R.N., you can
join online support groups for AIDS/HIV, attention deficit disorder,
diabetes, muscular dystrophy and other ailments.  Questions about
medical problems and health often are answered by Crawford herself, or
by local and national health care professionals.

Within the past two years, several local bulletin board operators
have begun to charge user fees.  "I'll never charge for my board," Rea
says.  "This is my hobby.  How can I charge someone for my hobby?"

Some local BBS operators are spending a lot of money on advanced
equipment and more powerful computers, Rea says.  "They are trying to
get some return on their investment."

Crawford asks for donations, but no one has sent her any money.  She
also offers free membership for people who donate blood.  "I've had no
takers on that, either," she says.

Messages get transferred from one system to another at night, when
phone rates are cheaper.  As we sleep, thousands of computers call each
other and exchange messages.

Sal Lizard of James Island serves as a regional hub for several BBS
networks.  He began operating a BBS in Canada about 12 years ago.
Before moving to James Island three years ago, he posted messages on
BBSes saying he was re-locating to Charleston and asking for information
about the area.

"People sent me information about housing prices and schools," he
says.  "Most of the people who responded were in the military and I
thought Goose Creek was the only place to live in Charleston."

Lizard makes his living as owner of Safety First, a safety consulting
firm.  He also repairs computers.  He says his message-handling duties
take up a sizable portion of his time.

"I'm in charge of the North American continent in two networks.  And
I'm regional coordinator for another network." Lizard says.  Lizard, a
Star Trek fan and "Medical Officer" of Star Fleet, USS Charleston, a
local Trekkie organization, handles Star Trek related messages for 23
eastern states, he says.

Due to Lizard's efforts, Charleston was the first regional network in
the world to handle its nationwide mail traffic through a satellite
dish, installed in Lizard's yard.  Lizard says the satellite feed has
cut down on phone bills, which have run as high as $800 a month.

All the BBS sysops in Charleston use Lizard's system to transfer mail
to and from nationwide networks.

Lizard says BBSes are changing.  Years ago, the so-called
"adults-only" echoes were more popular than they are now, he says.
"People have started using BBSes for their businesses and for hobbies."
The most popular among the 3,000 message areas Lizard supplies to local
BBSes include an echo for Rush Limbaugh fans, a Star Trek echo and
echoes devoted to software support, Lizard says.  Charleston Politics and
Charleston Chat are also popular.


Getting online is simple if you have a modem and a communications
program.  A modem translates computer commands into digital signals sent
over telephone lines, so computers can talk to each other.  If you don't
have a modem, you can purchase one at a computer supply store.

A communications program, or terminal program, helps you control your
modem and sends information from your computer, through your modem, to
other computers.  The two most popular communications programs,
Crosstalk for Windows and ProComm Plus for Windows, can cost anywhere
from $60 to $200.

If your computer has Windows, you've got Windows terminal, a
serviceable communications program that will enable you to log onto a
bulletin board and download a more powerful DOS-based communications
program such as ProComm 243, Telix 3.21 or Telemate.

Those are shareware programs, which means you can download them for
free and try them for 30 or 45 days to see if you like them.  If you
like using the program, you should send the software author a
registration fee when the trial period is over.

Offline mail readers, also available for downloading on many BBSes,
enable you to read and reply to your messages while disconnected from
the BBS.  The Blue Wave Mail Reader and the OLX Mail Reader are among
the most popular offline mail reader programs.

In a way, posting a message on a bulletin board is a lot like having
your own printing press.  Your message, uncut and unedited, will be seen
by hundreds of people in the Lowcountry.  If you post a message to one of
the nationwide echoes carried on local BBSes, your message will be read
by thousands, across the nation and around the world.  This alternative
medium for disseminating information has not been lost on local and
national politicians.  Many are scrambling to get online.  On the local
BBSes, there are three echoes in which the politicians congregate:
Charleston Politics, Democrats Online and Republicans Online.

The Charleston County Library offers dial-in access to its card
catalog.  The library's system also offers access to the libraries of
several area colleges, a number of databases, and a Post-Courier index
from 1988-1993.


For those that want to explore cyberspace at its farthest reaches,
the Internet, with some 2 million host computers and 20 to 25 million
users worldwide, is a treasure trove.

On the Internet, you can log on to a computer at the Library of
Congress and download files to your computer.  Or you can log into
EDGAR, a program set up by the National Science Foundation which enables
you to download Securities and Exchange Commission filings from major
corporations.  If you attend college or are in the military, you may
have Internet access at school or work.

Local BBSes are beginning to offer pieces of the Internet pie.  At
BCB Network, sysop Jody Winningham is making access to Internet E-mail
and 5,000 Internet discussion groups, called USENET newsgroups,
available to members.  Winningham plans to charge about $6.00 a month
for Internet access.

Chapman says Earth Art offers Internet at no charge.

Of the commercial online services, Delphi offers the most complete
access to the Internet.  On Delphi, you can easily download files from
host computers to your own and use Internet tools such as Gopher, Telnet
and World Wide Web to search for information.

Delphi offers a free, five-hour trial period in which you can explore
the Internet.  To sign up, set your modem to 2400-8-N-1 and call Delphi
at 1-800-365-4636.  Press return once or twice.  When you see the
USERNAME prompt, enter JOINDELPHI.  At the password prompt, enter:

CompuServe offers access to Internet E-mail, but not much else.

America Online caused quite a stir when it announced in November that
it was hooking up to the Internet.  So far, the only Internet feature
available on AOL is E-mail, but subscribers can get a lot of mail without
having to pay extra fees or storage charges.  The only problem with
reading E-mail on AOL is that you have to do it online; there is no
provision for downloading mail and reading it later.

The list of 80 Charleston area bulletin boards included is now outdated.

FOR FURTHER READING: * Glossbrenner, Alfred.  "The Complete Handbook of
(In box at bottom)     Personal Computer Communications: Everything You
_____________________  Need to Go Online With the World" (3rd Ed.) New
Missing from this   |  York; St. Martin's Press, 1989.
book list was the   |
REAL modemer bible: |* Pournelle, Jerry and Michael Banks. "Pournelle's
"Introduction to PC |  PC Communications Bible".  Redmond, Wash.;
Telecommunications" |  Microsoft Press, 1992.
by John Dvorak, who |
was keynote speaker |* Lambert, Steve and Walt Howe.  "Internet Basics:
at first ONE BBSCON |  Your Online Access to the Global Electronic
(Online Networking  |  Superhighway".  New York; Random House, 1993.
Exposition and BBS  |
CONvention) in 1992.|*  LaQuey, T. and Ryer, J.C.  "The Internet
The book includes a |   Companion: A Beginner's Guide to Global
FREE shareware copy |   Networking".  Reading, Mass.; Addison-Wesley,
of Qmodem, a Top 3  |   1992.
telecomm. terminal! |
ONE BBSCON for 1994 |*  Kehoe, Brendan P.  "Zen and the Art of the
will be in Atlanta  |   Internet".  Englewood Cliffs, N.J.;
from August 17-21!  |   Prentice-Hall, 1993
Keynote speaker is  |
Mr. Dennis Hayes!!  |   Charleston County Library modem access: 722-6490

P&C reporter David MacDougall can be contacted in the Charleston Chat
echo on any local BBS.  His e-mail address is:

Well, what do you think? Was this a well-written BBS article or WHAT?

Congratulations (and my gratitude) to David MacDougall for a tremendous job in helping to introduce cyberspace to the masses of the Lowcountry. As ANY sysop in the Charleston area will attest, the volume of new users this story generated was absolutely incredible! I never saw Earth Art's monitor turn blank (after 3 minutes of inactivity) for at least 2 weeks. Undoubtedly, this article blew the lid off of Lowcountry BBSing FOREVER! It took about a month for most boards to finally get back to normal.

Imagine the number of phone calls we got after this story said we had "Internet at no charge" in 1994? The article should have said we had "free internet E-mail and USENET newsgroups" not imply FREE internet access! Obviously, thousands were very anxious to go online at that time.

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