Plumb - the BBS newsletter

A decade before the Internet arrived, computer hobbyists used their telephone modems to log into computer networks like CompuServe and The Source. Both charged a monthly fee for access to electronic mail, discussion forums and software downloads.

But anyone with a couple modems and telephone lines and specialized software could create their only online service. The world of Bulletin Board Systems was fueled in part by people who wanted to collect and share pirated software.

If you didn't want to pay hundreds of dollars for Lotus 1-2-3 or WordPerfect, you could find a free copy posted on a BBS. Other bulletin boards were devoted to specific topics, like games, politics, sports or sex.

In 1983, I launched a newsletter called Plumb to share news about the BBS culture and new arrivals to the online world. I printed the eight-page issues using my Apple II+ computer and Epson dot-matrix printer. Subscriptions initially cost $20 a year.

Plumb got some good publicity in the computer press. Articles appeared in PC magazine, InfoWorls, Electronic Learning and other publications. Steven Levy wrote about Plumb in the first edition of the Whole Earth Software Catalog. When Newsweek wrote the first story about computer viruses, a reporter called me for a comment.

In 1984, Plumb was added to NewsNet, a commercial database of special-interest newsletters. The following year, my partners and I sold Plumb to Meckler Publishing Co., a book and newsletter publisher. As party of the deal, I got an IBM PC. Meckler changed the name to Bulletin Board Systems and gave the newsletter a slick and professional look. I stayed on as the editor and also produced annual BBS directories for Meckler.

Plumb in the Whole Earth Software Catalog 1984



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