Unearthed: My old OASIS BBS Atari floppy disk

For the last few years, I’ve been researching and imaging other people’s old disks — but recently someone turned the tables and salvaged one of mine!

Let me tell you the story.

Front of an old 5.25″ floppy disk labeled “OASIS-BACKUP”.

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The past

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, my dad began receiving hand-me-down Atari equipment from different family members, including his brother Jim, and his uncle Ken and cousin Jeff. We ended up with two Atari 800s, a 130XE, a 520ST, an Okimate printer, plus tons of peripherals, cartridges, disks, tapes, manuals, and books — not to mention other stuff I later bought myself (1040STe, 825 printer, etc).

For a time, my dad kept the ST in his workshop, and let us kids have free rein with all the 8-bit stuff. Cousin Jeff had given us dozens of disks with pirated games and software, including a curious disk labeled “OASIS-BACKUP”.

That disk didn’t interest me much at first. I think I may have figured out how to watch the ATASCII movies, but that’s about all I tried for a while.

But later, after I began calling BBSes in 1992, I realized what it was all about. This disk had real BBS software!

My cousin had begun to customize the OASIS disk around 1987, and now that it was in my possession, I decided to start messing with it myself. I changed the BBS name to “Club Christian,” created a sysop account with the username “Sysop*Josh”, customized the bulletins, and wrote some initial messages in the messageboards, among other things.

This is the text of a logon bulletin I made for my “Club Christian BBS.” The BBS never went online, but I had hoped it might.

I never put the BBS online. It remained a personal experiment, one that I worked on occasionally in 1992 and 1993 … My first taste of what it might be like to be a sysop.

When I began BBSing, my family had only one phone line. Though my parents soon added a second line, I’m sure they wouldn’t have tolerated it being tied up all day for a BBS. So running my own BBS was a nonstarter — but I did become the cosysop of “Something in the Attic BBS” in the mid 1990s. That was as close as I got.

Fast-forward about 8 years. I was finishing my second year of college and still living at home. My main computer was now an iMac, though I still used my 1040 STe. But my basement bedroom was overflowing with computer stuff. There was no longer space for my extensive collection of 8-bit stuff.

So, I posted numerous for-sale ads on Usenet, with titles like “Fantastically huge Atari 8-bit sale!” Two days later, I reached a deal with … none other than Brad Arnold! (Little did I know that he would go on to great podcasting fame and glory)

It was bittersweet to let it all go. But I put six or seven boxes of stuff into the mail on May 30, 2000, and never thought I’d see any of it again.

The present

Rob Sherman loves projects.

If you visit his BBS, Southern Amis, or read his website, that will quickly become clear.

His latest project, which he calls “Don’t Toss Those Floppies”, was born in response to a recent episode of the ANTIC podcast in which Randy Kindig and Kay Savetz discussed what to do with all the homemade Atari 8-bit disks they had acquired over the years.

“I’m thinking of just going through those and keeping the commercial ones and getting rid of all the ones that were obviously created by people over time,” Kindig said. “Is that what most people do? Does that make sense? I doubt there’s anything of any real value on any of those disks.”

“I’ve gotten rid of that sort of thing before,” Savetz replied. “And I feel a little bad doing it, but it’s just someone’s random collection. And there’s nothing probably unique in there. And it’s pirated stuff that’s all been pirated by 100,000 people and it’s probably preserved.”

As a long-time listener of ANTIC, and a great appreciator of Savetz’s preservation-oriented work with the Internet Archive, I was very surprised to hear this. And I wasn’t the only one.

After that episode was published, many in the Atari community reached out to the ANTIC guys, urging them to reconsider. Hand-labeled floppies have value and are worth preserving.

Sherman was one of those. He went so far as to offer to take any unwanted disks off the ANTIC hosts’ hands and get them imaged.

“The non commerical disks are the real value,” he wrote later on his website. “I have never tossed out a floppy without preserving it as an ATR first.”

The ANTIC hosts took him up on his offer, and now, a couple months later, the project is running at full steam.

Screenshot of a message on the Southern Amis BBS from Rob Sherman about receiving a shipment of disks.

They found the OASIS disk in the first bundle they received from Arnold, imaged it, and then discovered its connection to me.

Sherman reached out and graciously mailed me the original floppy. What a pleasure to have it in my hands again after so many years. Thanks so much, Rob!

It’s been fun (and frustrating) to revisit the old BBS.

But I also discovered the disk contained three drafts of my very first article for my junior high school newsletter, which had some details I had forgotten. I’ll write more about that in the future.

For now, the work continues. Sherman is receiving bundles of disks from various folks, then distributing them among a group of volunteers for imaging.

Who knows what other cool things they’ll find?

The postscript

After this essay was published, my cousin sent me his memories about BBSing and the OASIS disk. So here is Jeff Unger’s story, very lightly edited, as a postscript:

My experience was very similar to yours, just a handful of years earlier.

I was absolutely fascinated by the concept of a BBS. Not only could two computers in different locations “talk” to one another, but content could be shared across computers (at a whopping 300 bps)! The OASIS software was the second platform I had, although I can’t recall the first.

I toyed with it extensively, and created some content, but like you, never published anything beyond having some friends call in when no one else was using the home phone. I remember quite clearly announcing to the household that I was expecting a call from a computer and please do not answer the phone when it rings. It is truly laughable now.

I don’t recall what I had named my BBS, but I was definitely focused on the connectivity and file sharing aspects. I frequented many other local BBSes and tried modeling my own after the features I liked from other sites — trying to animate pages (using characters with zero graphics) and allow for the sharing of files.

I loved the game Zork, and had grand visions of being able to recreate the game utilizing a BBS so that it could be multiplayer. I certainly had the right idea, just not the technical knowledge to make it a reality. All of the work done under the harsh conditions of sharing phone time with the family, as at the time, I certainly couldn’t or wouldn’t afford a dedicated line.

It was a great time in my life and, as I look back nearly 40 years, I recall having such wonder at what the world might hold. Thanks again for reaching out with such good memories.

2 thoughts on “Unearthed: My old OASIS BBS Atari floppy disk

  1. Eric March

    Man, I loved Oasis. I ran it on my own Toronto-based BBS, The Underground, ran on my 320K 130XE at the time. I was also learning 6502 assembly language in MAC/65 at the time, so I even wrote a few plug-in modules for it back before Glenda Stocks had an official module structure (or at least, published a list of address hooks modules could use to jump back to specific points in the BBS). I had to find jump points by dropping down to SpartaDOS-X while the BBS was running and using the RUN command to run the BBS from a specific memory address and hunt for them manually, which meant I had to release new version of bull.mod and comment.mod (bulletin/leech list and last comment modules, respectively) whenever a new version of Oasis was released because the jump points would change with each new version. She eventually did publish a list of jump points and standardized the module format though, which made things easier.

    Good times. 🙂


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