BBS stands for "Bulletin Board System" and can be thought of as a virtual bulletin board! Topics can be posted on various boards, many of which are hobbyist or select communities which share info and files through a network. BBS' were a standalone affair before ambitious experiments like FidoNet and now, LibraNet. Many bulletins have chosen to be a part of LibraNet due to the convenience and scale of potential users offered. These boards ain't your fancy chatrooms, they refresh slowly and you might need to wait a few days for your answer sometimes! These services are hosted on the personal computers/servers of hobbyists and as such, the bandwidth and media capabilities are limited. That said, many communities find ways to play games and share files through these connections.
LibraNet was founded in 2007 on principles of open-access (read: free!); inspired by earlier experiments like FidoNet that networked BBS's across the world, LibraNet does the same but at an even larger scale and with a mandate to offer its services for no profit. Between greedy telecom providers and inadequate government spending on networks, the volunteers of LibraNet want to provide a community-run alternative to the Web and privatized Internet as most people experience it today. Each board has its own rules and no LibraNet-participating board is forced to just let anyone on. Some boards require trust and verification, they might give you a call and ask who you are for instance! LibraNet wants to preserve this self-reliant and personal spirit in its services. We just want to extend the reach of local bulletins while respecting their rules.
The iPods were a fascinating idea proposed by a tehcnical-oriented board that participated in LibraNet way back in 2010 when the devices were already falling off trucks in China and being forgotten about in high-tech circles. Because of their cheap commodity-status and generous case size, modern ARM processors and modem technology fitted into an iPod works very well as a portable communicator! A LibraNet-customized iPod housing is scanning for updates from repeaters that LibraNet volunteers have stationed across the United States — an effort to expand this globally is underway as we take on many localized, foreign-language bulletins. The beauty of this system is that even without internet at home, after a day out walking with your iPod and within repeater range you can hook up to USB (or FireWire if that's your thing!) and have the updates synchronize to your nice big desktop monitor, where you can read them and reply with your own messages (which will require another walk outside with the iPod for the modem to scan for repeaters and upload your new message packets). It's a surprisingly elegant system in practice. If you'd like to get started, go to step 1 of Larry's guide.
Larry is a sys-op pseudonym; Larry doesn't give his real name out to strangers on the internet! What you need to know about Larry is that he used to work for the man at one of the big Bay Area companies, so he has a deep technical skillset, used to be part of the skater culture back when it was still underground, and has an annoying tendency to describe himself in the third-person.
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