BBSing with the ESP8266

Modems have been around for longer than the web, and before we had Facebook we had the BBS scene. Somewhat surprisingly, people are still hosting BBSes, but have fun finding a landline these days. [Blake Patterson] is one of the leading aficionados of retocomputers, and recently he took it upon himself to review an interesting new device. It’s the WiFi232 Internet Modem, a device that turns a WiFi connection into something a computer with a 25-pin RS-232 connector can understand.

The WiFi232 is made by [Paul Rickards], and given the last few years of WiFi-enabled retrocomputing projects, it’s exactly what you would expect. Onboard the WiFi232 is an ESP8266 module emulating the Hayes AT command set. Baud rates from 300 to 115200 are supported, with power provided through a USB mini jack or solder terminals.

[Blake]’s computer den is the stuff of legend, and as such he has more than enough toys to test out this universal WiFi to Serial converter. Devices used in the test include the Apple //c, IIe, Amiga 1000, and TI-99/4A. In short, everything works just like it should. [Blake] was able to pull up the extant bulletin boards on his collection of ancient computers. You can check out [Blake]’s review of the WiFi232 below

39 thoughts on “BBSing with the ESP8266

  1. ” Somewhat surprisingly, people are still hosting BBSes, but have fun finding a landline these days. ”

    Considering I ditched one about a month ago, they’re pretty easy to find. Plus I still have my 3com modem* around here, somewhere.

    *The kind that has an Ethernet switch built into it.

      1. It’s a combination of a 56K modem and a router. A small business class piece of equipment. Not as common back then. I also use to have a USRobotics modem with the serial port mentioned.

          1. Yeah I’ve still got my 14.4kbps 3COM (and a 56K somewhere)
            I have the consumer models with no switch built in.
            And my landline is working fine. Can’t get broadband without payinf for landline rental in the UK (yet).

      2. Modem stands for (Mod)ulator/(Dem)odulator. A modem is a device that modulates and demodulates a signal. It isn’t dependent on having a specific kind of port, so long as it converts a signal from one medium to another. Whether that medium is between Ethernet and telephones, or between fiber and radio, it does not matter.

  2. Just a couple weeks ago I did some searching to see if something like this would be feasible. Beyond my programming ability though.

    I wonder if it could be used for more than just BBS .. I used to use Netscape and a 14.4 modem with my old Mac IIcx, and I’ve been looking a replacement not dependent upon a landline

    1. I was trying to do the same thing. I found a SLIP implementation but I couldn’t find the SDK it was built on top of, so I wasn’t able to compile it.

      I was basically looking for a cheap easy way to connect my Amiga to the internet with AmiTCP or Malibu.

        1. Technically, it would. I just didn’t want to have to physically connect the Amiga to my PC.

          Frankly, the biggest reason why I haven’t worked on it more is that I simply don’t have the time; right now I’m swamped with work, and I’m working on another project that is supposed to help my career. I’m trying to get a job that pays more but takes less time so I have more to spend on projects like this.

    2. The stock ESPs I believe (can) work as a TCP socket terminal (which most demos seem to show off), it’s really only a matter of wiring & their voltage levels. Beyond that again it’s just a matter of flashing firmware for other functionality

  3. We still have BBSs – PBBS (Packet BBS). Amateur radio has them operating on both VHF and HF. I hope to have one operating with a Raspberry Pi before the summers end.

  4. The WiFi232 does not impress me. Blake’s computer den on the other hand… Wow!!! At some point or another over the years, I have had most of the computers in his den. Nowadays I’m down to a couple of TRS-80’s.

    1. That’s a great vid, as are all of LGR’s. And that telnet BBS site has got to be running on an 8088 PC. At the best of times it is as slow as a dog — slowest site of any I’ve consistently used — ever.

  5. For a while I’ve had this idea of hosting a bbs or email server on a retro-computer(either the 1802 olduino or z80 olduino/Z) . I have Ethernet,http, and socket code but I lack the core server software. Practically, unless it was z80 specific it would have to be written in C or C++. Any ideas?

  6. Wait, is this the same AT modem commands as used by many modern wireless telephones? Could you BBS with a usb to serial converter, a usb enabled phone, and a serial enabled retro? Gotta try!

  7. Good hack! I was wondering if someone have tried to convert cheap ATA device to dial up server. Like HT701. In that way you can have dial up access for old laptops and computers using the build in modem.

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