Archiving 300,000 Fidonet messages

In 2015, I began looking for archives of networked BBS messageboards, hoping to find contemporary discussions of BBS door games from the 1990s. The best source I found was the fidonet.ozzmosis.com archive.

The Ozzmosis archive is awesome — and it’s still active, archiving any new messages posted to Fidonet. (yes, Fidonet still exists!) But I quickly realized the archive was heavily weighted to the new millenium. I analyzed the dates of every message in the Ozzmosis archive, and found that, only 7% of the archive was from years prior to 2000.

That realization set me on a search. I began visiting long-running BBSes, looking for caches of old Fidonet messages.

I found two, of differing scopes.

Wisconsin-based ExecPC BBS, once one of the largest bulletin boards in the world, had continued running in a sort of suspended animation since its heyday. I had an old user account on this BBS, but I had never been active. As I poked around, I found ExecPC had extensive local and Fidonet messageboards. The Fidonet boards contained hundreds of thousands of old messages from the late 1990s, though some boards went as far back as 1993.

I wrote a Python scraper that could telnet to the BBS and scrape the messages. Because of oddities in ExecPC’s time limits and user limits, the scraping process took weeks. But eventually I had all the Fidonet messages.

The other BBS was Starfleet HQ, a resurrected Atari ST board which I loved to call. It hosted some of my favorite games, including Space Empire Elite, and it a number of frozen-in-amber networked message bases on Atari topics. Some of these were Fidonet, and others were from Atari networks. Again, I wrote a new scraper to capture Starfleet HQ’s Fidonet messages and saved them to a text file.

Unfortunately, both these BBSes have gone offline since 2015. There’s some hope Starfleet HQ may come back to life again, but I imagine ExecPC is gone for good.

This year I finally made contact with the maintainer of the Ozzmosis archive. I sent him my caches, and I hope that the messages can be integrated there. That’s really where they belong. But I also sent them to Jason Scott, who made sure they are [permanently housed on archive.org]((https://archive.org/details/fidonet_combined_execpc_starfleet_messages_1995_1999).

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