Killer Green Information Environmental BBSs

BBS Basics

Basically, a BBS is a computer - usually with a lot of memory - that has one or more phone lines attached to it via modem. The BBS is set up to accept phone calls from other computers that are equipped with modems. Once on a BBS, computer users are usually led through a menu that gives them a variety of activities to choose from. Users can leave messages for or receive messages from other users (what is known as sending electronic mail or echomail). They can receive or donate software and files (known as "downloading" and "uploading," respectively). On some systems, they can also access online games, as well as other services.

BBSs have been around for years, but really took off in the early to mid-1980s during the initial personal computer craze, when average Janes and Joes started running them out of their houses. It wasn't long before various BBS operators - known as sysops, for "system operators" - across the country banded together to form various networks, or nets, which allowed BBS users to communicate with their counterparts across the country - or the world. Users are able to call into their local BBS, join a conference on a topic (i.e., "Ecology"), and post messages to other users about the topic. At the end of the day, local sysops phone into a central exchange line, upload all their users' messages, and download everybody's responses.

Many of these computer hobbyists/enthusiasts run BBSs because they want to spread knowledge and information, as well as a bit of their personalities. Most sysops don't run their BBS for profit. All have invested a lot of time, energy, and money into their hobby, in the vein of ham radio.

Some sysops charge their users a fee to recoup the cost of their long distance phone bills and equipment, while others don't charge anything. (One Austin sysop told me his long distance bill went as high as $800 a month, but he didn't charge his users anything more than voluntary donations.)

The Internet, which has received a lot of media hype lately, is in a sense a string of many BBSs across the world. It is massive, all-encompassing, hard to maneuver, and somewhat expensive for its users (usually about $15 to $20 a month or more for access). BBSs, on the other hand, are relatively small, and therefore contain fewer files and less information. They are also easier to explore - menus and on-line help guide users through choices ("Enter `F' if you want to go to the files section, Enter `G' if you want to play online games, Enter `J' to join a conference, Enter `L' for a list of conferences," etc.).

In recent years, it seems that BBSs have only made the news when they were frequented by bucolic child molesters and/or prankster computer hackers. Yes, it's true - these types have been known to log on to BBSs. They've also been known to buy food and pump gas into their cars, but I hope that hasn't stopped anyone from eating or driving around town. Nowadays, in order to have a little sense of computer security, most sysops ask their users for simple information: name, address, phone number, birth date, etc.

Environmental BBSs

In order to list BBSs that had environment-related subjects, I used a locally produced list of BBSs in the Austin area called RETSOF as my guide. RETSOF, compiled by local BBSer John Foster, includes more than 300 BBSs (updated regularly) and briefly describes what each offers. I logged onto over 100 BBSs - all that were listed on RETSOF as having echomail (e-mail) capabilities - and hunted around through their conference and file directory listings.

Because this article is meant to showcase locally run BBSs as an alternative to the Internet, the list does not include people/organizations who pretty much focus all their energies on the Internet. The list also does not include larger national databases, such as Compuserve & GEnie.

Many BBSs were not listed because they didn't offer any obvious access to environmentally related conferences or files. Many sysops, however, can access and offer these conferences upon request - so the list is in no way "complete." My advice is to log on to these BBSs, download a list of Austin-area BBSs for yourself, and go exploring!

(All phone numbers are within the 512 area code unless otherwise noted.)
  • Austin Metro Info BBS

    Modem: 251-8712.
    Includes information on Texas parks - number of campsites, what's available at them, nearby points of interest, etc.

  • Black Tower

    Modem: 444-3933, 448-3216.
    Really nice on-line graphics in a medieval motif, and lots of different things available. There's an environmental discussion group - VirtualNET's Green Sub/Earth Preservation - which can be accessed under "Political Subjects" in the message menu). Access is free for an hour or less or day, which should give you plenty of time to explore, but you can increase your time with donations ranging from $1-4 (for up to 75 minutes a day) to $46 or more (up to nine hours a day).

  • Camel's Back BBS

    Modem: 243-0077, 243-0082.
    Extensive files and conferences sections - conferences include fishing, UseNet environment, and BioNet plants. Access is free for up to 30 minutes/download of up to 150 KB daily;
    $5 a year for 60 minutes/500 KB download;
    $10 a year for 90 minutes/1.5 meg download, and $15 a year for 90 minutes/1.5 meg download and Internet e-mail with files attached.

  • Comland BBS

    Modem: 218-0173, 218-0174, 218-8814, 214-0076.
    This BBS carries a large number of conferences, including BikeNet (bicycle use in sports, touring, racing, and transportation), EcoNet (ecology issues), and fishing. Callers have limited access to the conferences unless they are paid subscribers ($5 a month or $50 a year).

  • Crossroads BBS

    Modem: 255-8985, 255-0576. Sysops: Jay and Elaine Loveless.
    Want a great selection of discussion groups? The sysops will take requests for any of the more than 600 FidoNet groups in existence. As far as the environmentally related goes, they already have a handful: ecology, fishing, gardening, sustainable agriculture, and home power, which recently has covered subjects such as convection heat, diesel fuel alternatives, and natural gas generation.


    Modem: 474-0918.
    Run by the "Deep Eddy Institute of Strategic Thought" or DEIST, this BBS includes a variety of discussion conferences including the FidoNet Wilderness and the PodNet Global Change.

  • DWIE (Drinking Water Information Exchange)

    Modem: 800/932-7459. Voice: 800/624-8301. Sysop: Brad Moss.
    This national BBS, run by the National Drinking Water Clearinghouse, includes bulletins about subjects like "States Impose Green Taxes to Prevent Pollution" and "States and Industries Are Awarded Grants for Pollution Prevention." Conferences include "Regulations Affecting Small Communities" and "Health Effects of Drinking Water Contaminants." Files include alternative technologies, water treatment, and water storage and distribution.

  • E-Net

    Modem: 471-4771. Sysop: Jack Turner.
    This BBS is sponsored by the University of Texas' Department of Physics; the welcoming statement says that "E-Net is oriented toward advancing science and science education." Conferences include ecology and the environment, but with a different kind of twist, as it is frequented by scientific types. Example of one e-mail message: "I'm a packaging engineer for a large worldwide company and I'd like to get some opinions from people about all the legislation being created regarding packaging and environmental waste issues." File areas include physics, chemistry, and biology.

  • E-Source

    Modem: 463-6257 or 800/831-8826. Voice: 800/367-8272. Sysops: Cathy Keller and Larry Rosenblatt.
    This BBS, run by the Texas General Land Office and the Center for Resource Management, could be considered a hub of sorts for Austin environmental BBSs. It includes bulletins on the "Buy Recycled" campaign (be on the lookout for TV public service announcements featuring Lucy and Ethyl in the candy factory) and the Sustainable Energy Council. Its extensive conference list includes such subjects as ecology, the environment, the international Green movement, alternative energy and fuels, the Sierra Club, sustainable agriculture, Internet agriculture, ecological research, nuclear issues, and oceanography.

  • Earth Art BBS

    Modem: 803/552-4389 (North Charleston, South Carolina). Sysop: Bob Chapman.
    This BBS serves as the source of the International Green BBS list, which includes more than 100 environmentally related BBSs across the country. The BBS hosts the RINE outdoor conference and has more than 11 gigabytes on-line - including more than 25,000 pieces of art - for all you who like to download long distance. You want environmental conferences? They've got conferences on GreenNet, the environment, ecology, recycling, conservation, alerts, waste, the outdoors, the wilderness, and more.

  • ElseWhere BBS

    Modem: 258-1510. Sysop: Richard Lyle.
    This Church of the Subgenius-related BBS has an animal rights echo. Bob is everywhere!

  • End of the Line BBS

    Modem: 459-4693. Sysop: Jeff Russell.
    This BBS includes a fishing echo.

  • Enterprise BBS

    Modem: 453-5079. Sysop: John Read.
    This BBS offers a lot of files and over 300 conferences including science and technology. Users have a choice of several access plans ranging from free (60 minutes on-line per day and limited access and downloading capabilities) to $20 per year (90 minutes on-line per day and increased access or downloading).

  • EnviroLink BBS

    Modem: Call voice number for registration and local access number. Voice: 412/268-7187. Sysop: John Knauer.
    (From the BBS): "The EnviroLink Network is the largest on-line environmental information service on the planet, reaching well over 550,000 people in 96 countries. All services provided by the EnviroLink Network are free to the user and are available for anyone who wishes to use them." EnviroLink, run by The Heinz School in Pittsburgh, offers libraries of environmental information, a directory of environmentally and socially responsible businesses, many environmentally related forums including some chat-modes, an inclusive listing of all environmental resources available on the Internet, Telnet access to EnviroWeb, a World Wide Web/Mosaic interface to environmental information, and much more. Wanna e-mail Congress, the president, or vice-president about environmental issues? You can do it through EnviroLink. To get access to this wonderful free system through a local access number, call the voice number listed above and tell them why you'd like access.

  • Flotom Enterprises BBS

    Modem: 282-3941. Sysop: Tom Lane.
    This BBS has a huge conferences section and lots of files, too! Conferences include home power, home and garden, wilderness, SurvNet outdoor safety, hunting, and fishing, and Internet geology. The BBS also has text files on lots of survivalist topics including foods, how to build a fire using friction, and more. Look for ENVIRO.ARJ - Fifty Ways to Save the Environment.

  • Gulfline BBS

    Modem: 800/235-4662.
    This BBS, run by the Gulf of Mexico Program, is geared toward Gulf of Mexico conservation specialists. It includes a variety of related databases and text files on the Gulf. Users must fill out questionnaires in order to gain access.

  • InfiNet

    Modem: 462-0633, 462-0728, 462-0896. Voice: 288-5223.
    This Mac-based BBS (which is also accessible by DOS machines) may be the best environmental board in town. Conferences include water and wetlands, hazardous waste/toxic materials, air quality, the environment, environmental justice, environmental politics, recycling, and endangered species. They also have on-line publications, which include information on subjects like Green Union of Students, grassroots forestry, urban sprawl, eco-tourism information, Mexican environmental groups, and how to help the environment. InfiNet runs on First Class modem software; users are advised to download a free program that includes a graphical user interface. Non-paying users have 15 minutes a day of free access for two weeks. To become a fully validated member of InfiNet and receive the graphical settings file that gives you full access to all conference areas, files, Internet e-mail, etc., you subscribe for $32 per quarter or $100 per year.

  • Metropolis Southwest

    Modem: 320-0950.
    This MajorNet BBS includes echoes on camping, hiking, and outdoor activities, as well as on gardening and flowers. They charge according to the following fee schedule: 8 hours/$5, 15 hours/$10, all the way up to 400 hours/$100.

  • Omicron BBS

    Modem: 836-6383. Sysop: Bill Forsythe.
    This BBS has the alt.power.source echo under the name "HOMEPOWR."

  • Outdoor BBS

    Modem: 389-4430.
    Run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, this BBS includes conferences on proposed outdoor-related laws, fishing, state parks, conservation, wetlands, and game and fishing laws, plus files on native birds, endangered and
    threatened species in Texas, and stocking of fish.

  • Snarling Music BBS

    Modem: 255-9403.
    This BBS includes TexNet echoes on hunting/fishing and farming.

  • Texas Information Highway BBS

    Modem: 475-4765.
    With a name like that, you know it has to be good. But seriously... this BBS, run by the Texas Department of Information Resources, has a direct tie-in to Texas and other state government Internet sites. So if you're looking for environmental information as it pertains to government agencies, this is the place.

  • Texas Railroad Commission Cross-Ties BBS

    Modem: 463-6074.
    Run by the Texas Railroad Commission, this BBS includes information in the form of downloadable files on alternative fuels, LP Gas/CNG, oil and gas, surface mining, and other related subjects.

  • Thirst for Knowledge BBS

    Modem: 454-8065, 452-3156.
    This BBS has an echo on alternative science and technology.

  • TourTex 2000

    Modem: 302-2001.
    Sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation, this BBS includes downloadable information about Texas campsites and lakes.

  • Tranquility Base BBS

    Modem: 210/699-1710. Sysops: Shannon Blackburn and Justin Moore.
    This BBS is sponsored by San Antonio's chapter of Radio Emergency Associated Communication Team (REACT). Conferences include environment, bicycling, fishing, wilderness camping, the Sierra Club, and ecology. The conference section has included a lot of discussion on the controversial Applewhite Reservoir. The file section includes text files on outdoor recreation and travel files like "List of Day Hiking Trails in Colorado," "Colorado hunting, fishing, and campground locales" - bicycling, and nature and conservation, and GIF files of marine life and nature. There's also a good selection of Texas visitors information on Kerrville and the Hill Country, Matagorda Island, New Braunfels Wildlife Ranch, Moody Gardens, South Padre Island, Pedernales Falls, and more.

  • TNRCC Online BBS

    Modem: 239-0700.
    This BBS, run by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, includes the following areas: Office of Air, which includes information on ozone advisories and emissions; Office of Water, which includes information on water utilities, water regulations, and water quality; and Office of Waste, which includes information on industrial and hazardous waste, municipal solid waste, and waste regulations. Lots of text files!

  • Turning Point BBS

    Modem: 703-4400. Sysops: Tom Parish, Paul Tischler, Mike Byrnes.
    This Association of Shareware Professionals-approved BBS has many message bases to choose from for a fee - 180 days/$30, 365 days/$48, and 730 days/$72. FidoNet areas include bicycling, wilderness travel, home and garden, the Sierra Club, environmental, alternative energy systems, and sustainable agriculture. UseNet areas include gardening, environment, and ecology.

  • zen ink

    Modem: 476-7177.
    Includes WWIVNet talk groups on whales, dolphins, and other marine animals, as well as one on the post-nuclear world.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by R.U. Steinberg
A Lagniappe About Mary Trump’s Book
A Lagniappe About Mary Trump’s Book
R.U. Steinberg recalls a childhood in the distant orbit of “the world’s most dangerous man”

July 24, 2020

Margaret Moser Tribute: Alice Berry
Alice Berry
On the Texas Blondes: “We were just cute girls who liked cute bands”

June 30, 2017

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle