HISTORY of the FHOF (warning: boring - the good stuff is down below)
It was participation in the international netmail network Interlink (later renamed ILink) that popularized the HOF. I moderated two conferences there and eventually was ILink's PR officer. Running that complaint desk was a job from hell but I like jobs from hell.
When the HOF outgrew disk circulation, that great ILink Chief Moderator Bobby Sumrada of Cheers! BBS in Memphis agreed to be the home board for the HOF software library. After a year or two she left Memphis and we moved the FHOF to Scott Johnson's "Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited" BBS in Charlottesville.
Scott let me maintain his BBS file download library so by the time he closed the Board and moved to Florida, I was familiar with PCBoard BBS software and opened my own. The Freeware Hall Of Fame BBS was dedicated to the hobby side of the PC industry and eventually became the busiest BBS in town.
We didn't carry the ILink Network due to lack of interest. An earlier BBS here, John Gefaell's A Nickel's Worth, tried it. That got me involved but almost no one else from town participated. The largest network, FIDO, was also a failure here.
Here's a list, as best I can reconstruct it, of the dial up bulletin boards that operated in Central Virginia during the BBS age.
Almost from the beginning FreeHOF had a monthly luncheon for callers to get together. The HOF BBS closed in 1997 but the monthly "Luncheon at Tiffany's" never stopped and continues today as the BBS Banquet to bring together friends 12 times a year. Tiffany's Restaurant closed so we moved to the Boat House at noon on the second Friday of every month. Can you recognize an invitation?
In the mid-90s Boardwatch magazine named the FreeHOF BBS one of the world's 25 Best Bulletin Boards. Didn't matter. Callers were dropping in droves in favor of the Internet. With the downsizing of the dial-up Bulletin Board world we moved to cyberia, serving the 4th World with an image of tomorrow.
When it became obvious that many programmers did a poor job describing their program in a FILE_ID.DIZ which was the standard file they wrote for sysops to use in their filebase, we wrote Dizgripe to set down the ground rules.
Our index (see below) describes freeware and shareware for DOS and Windows. We're long on diagnostic programs, making FreeHOF a treasure trove for computer consultants.
We list files in hundreds of different categories, often with a special slant. For example we have education files with an emphasis on home schooling to strengthen the curriculum.
We also carried nearly all the books issued by Project Gutenberg, the leading source of books to download. Now there's a new kid on the block for books on-line, called (oddly) BOOKS ON-LINE. They have thousands of titles available, free of course.
The best guide we found to the many sites with readable books on-line including specialty books is at the Univ. of Texas. Frequently they will recommend the Univ. of Virginia here in town, which has been scanning books for public use since scanners became available.
FreeHOF was never about quantity of files, but of quality. We tried to carry all the best ones in each category rather than all the offerings. People never had to ask the sysop, "Which one do you recommend?" Carrying it meant recommending it. To our knowledge it was the world's only quality-driven public filebase where a program had to win it's way in.
When a program was updated we usually replaced the older version with the new, but not without testing. Sometimes programmers drop old functions when they add new ones. Sometimes they change the user interface, replacing the familiar with the unfamiliar. If there was good reason to hang on to the old version as well as add the new, we did, and explained why in the file description.
It took three to four hours a day and sometimes more, seven days a week, to keep up the filebase. Most of the programs we went out and found by calling other boards, the rest were uploaded to us by the programmer, other sysops, or BBS callers. The bulk of them came from ExecNet BBS in Mt. Vernon, NY, run by Andy Keeves. It was the home port of ILink and one of the best bulletin boards of all time.
Without Andy Keeves, Bobby Sumrada of Cheers!, and Scott Johnson, the Freeware Hall of Fame could not have existed.
The Hall of Fame didn't carry many text files but we do have a beginner's library on the JFK assassination cover-up. It has documents like the original report of the Dallas police paraffin test on Lee Harvey Oswald's cheeks and hands. Made shortly after his arrest, it showed he hadn't fired a gun.
One of many authoritative JFK assassination web sites with links to others is this: http://www.jfk-assassination.net/ Kennedy Assassination Home Page
A live panorama of Dealey Plaza in Apple Quicktime format is here: http://www.virtualvisitor.com/dealey/dealey.html
When I was a news reporter I had a trivial role in assassination lore. It's of no importance at all but because another web site has it wrong, I have to set the record straight. Just ignore.
Click on this link to view a plain text copy of our Hall of Fame File Index. You can save it to disk after it's fully displayed. It's uncompressed and 1.7 megs.
Using FTP you can also download the index in zip compression (only half a meg) in a file called ALLFILES.ZIP
We also have vintage programs to download including archive extractors, two versions of the complete PCBoard BBS software registered and usable, and 4 collections - over 100 programs - of freeware and shareware. Enjoy.
Unlike others, ours are unique file descriptions written at the HOF. Some file descriptions took more than an hour to write and can run 60 lines.
The index is useful no matter where you get the files because these descriptions are more thorough. They reveal undocumented features or problems we uncovered when testing the program.
The operating system the program needs will always be found in the first two lines. If it doesn't say otherwise, the program runs in DOS and a Windows DOS box. There are no Apple, Mac, OS/2, Amiga, etc. files except texts. Executables are all WIN & DOS.
Hiding a shareware price is deceptive and annoying. We make it a point to disclose the price.
Now that our BBS is extinct we carry links to free web sites at the bottom of this page where these files may be downloaded.
From us you can still download choice collections of past freeware in ZIP archives, plus some useful new software that deserves praise. We continue to carry basic software no one else seems to have anymore, like the PKZIP and PKUNZIP executables.
We also have what may be the only public access to a ready-to-use download of PCBoard BBS software if you want to relive the glory days. You can get plenty of help setting it up. There are 50 alt or comp usenet newsgroups with BBS in the title. The industry is far from dead.
Even ILink http://www.techware.dynip.com/public/ILink/index.html is still operating.
If you need inspiration, look at the number of dial-up Bulletin Boards we had in this one rural area between 1982 and 2001. 61 of them. This list came from a massive nationwide BBS list floating around the net, with a few additions we knew of.
All of our files are scanned by two anti-virus programs, McAfee and F-Prot, before I can touch them. We also test all programs for adware and spyware. If we find any we toss the package in the bit bucket.
Some Hall Of Fame - Freeware - BBS Highlights
We published a highly praised paperback called the Guide To Free Software. It was sold by mail order world-wide and at eastern seaboard computer shows for $20. (We sell the remaining stock for $5 which includes delivery.) The book lists hundreds of freeware writers by name, their programs, and inducts 13 into the Circle of Great Freeware Writers. How many of the 13 can you name?
This 1995 book is the only one ever published to honor freeware writers.
In the heyday of the BBS, untold hundreds of Bulletin Boards around the world carried FreeHOF software. We gave even first time callers unlimited download time for file gathering. Most of our callers were long distance sysops on file hunts. Those files can be found throughout the Internet now. They may or may not have our logo when you find them.
Doors also gave help for common problems callers experience, such as modem problems. Modems were a constant source of headaches that few callers understood, and many sysops had a poor grasp of.
One who did understand was Brian Miller, sysop at Channel 1 in Boston. I expanded into a BBS Door about modems his terrific file on modem problems. Reading it today, I have no idea what was his and what was mine.
Did the Internet cause the demise of the BBS industry? Yes, thanks to a tremendous boost from Microsoft when it moved from DOS to Windows.
When the popular Windows 3.1 operating system came out it was geared for Internet use and lacked adequate tools to dial up a BBS. Only the most knowledgeable and dedicated could make it do that.
Bulletin boards lost their callers step-for-step as people switched from DOS to Windows.
About the time the Internet went from no advertising permitted to wide open commercialization, Bill Gates found the way to build the net by starving the BBS cottage industry. It was a great success and even those of us who lost know it was a good idea. (At least building the net was. Commercialization sucks.)
Do people remember when the Internet had no advertising? Here's a memory jogger:
Adopted from LEGAL BYTES Spring 1994, Volume 2, Number 1 Copyright (c) 1994 George, Donaldson & Ford, L.L.P.
In April, 1994, the NYTIMES ran a story about a lawyer in Phoenix, Arizona, who posted an advertisement for his legal services on Usenet ... Lawrence A. Canter, advertised his firm's availability to represent immigrant clients ... He did not limit his posting to legal or immigrant newsgroups, but instead flooded practically all the active Usenet groups he could reach ... some 9,000 newsgroups.
This resulted in the expected deluge of negative responses accusing him of commercializing the Internet, a grave breach of Netiquette. Canter received an estimated 30,000 angry responses before his ISP cut off his service... Canter remained completely unrepentant, and in fact threatened to sue his Internet provider for cutting off his access.
That's how internet commercialization began: a lawyer threatening suit. Big surprise.
On this site you will find the accurate story of the world's first BBS and its sysop, Ward Christensen. You can also learn the Origin of Shareware as told by Shareware's co-originator, Jim Button (thanks for permission to reprint, Jim.)
The FHOF BBS had the world's most advanced artificial intelligence co-sysop, the HOFmeister. Former Florida sysop Rich Waugh wrote the program engine (SHAMPAGE) and we replaced his script with our PCBoard how-to script and chit-chat. Sometimes HOFmeister was good conversation, sometimes not. Depends on what you said.
One thing he always did was respond to what was asked. He relied on keywords, as today's artificial intelligence does, but did not generate "Macros for Dummies" as we are universally cursed with now. We stressed the 'intelligence' side of artificial intelligence. The HOFmeister could parse a sentence and we refined his 100-word recognition list 100 times or more until he was the world's leading expert at answering questions about how to do something on PCBoard.
The HOFmeister was not only ahead of his time, he's ahead of where things are now.
Every December HOFmeister was replaced with an interactive Santa Claus who was a hoot. He's your basic jolly Saint Nick with a few tricks. Kids liked him because he seemed real, but it's the grown-ups who had hilarious conversations. They were recorded in logs and someday we may publish the best.
A generic Santa Claus Door was available free from FHOF for any BBS operator who wanted it. Ran on PCBoard & Wildcat software. It might still run on the Internet versions. Rick Waugh's original SHAMPAGE and the Santa Door are available to download from Simon Laven.
If you need business software, the FreeHOF file index describes over 150 programs for business. No junk and nothing expensive. We abhor expensive shareware.
The FreeHOF had few games to download aside from mind games. Two you can play here are the easy CLUE1 and the fiendishly hard CLUE2. Someone unknown wrote CLUE1. We added the clues for it, and later wrote CLUE2 to be mean.
Note: These sites are not part of The Freeware Hall of Fame,
In November, 2010, the owner of the DOS Museum invited us in to look around, and we recommend it highly. All the right motives and attitudes for an archivist and curator. The specialty there is DOS games. He shares our commitment to keeping history not just alive, but useful.
8 years into the 21st century we found another great freeware site. Actually The Freeware Bulletin Board found us, and we're glad Mark Williamson did. FreewareBB has a community forum as well as a web site filled with great software. In the best tradition Mark encourages us to submit software that we found, tested, and proved useful. What he's doing is exciting.
Want to open a computer bulletin board? A BBS is great fun and there are still hundreds of them in operation. Some are accessed on the Internet, some are dial-up, some both. You can find all manner of help and programs for it at The BBS Corner and its directory of third party software support sites for bulletin boards. And of course a fully registered, ready-to-run version of PCBoard is freely available to download right here at FHOF.
For old files, especially old DOS files, nothing is better than the math department of the University of Utah. Run across an old file archived in Phil Katz's ARC format? Here's where to download PK361.EXE, the self-executing ARC package. And thousands of other oldies almost no one has anymore.
A site for free tools for beautiful resolution and depth to your graphic images on or off the Web is found at POV-Ray 3-D Graphics.
Freeware Tracker has links to over 90 freeware sites on the Web, and growing. Even includes Mac sites. I view it with graphics OFF, as the home page has well over 100 small graphics and can take serious time to download on a dial-up. The account often exceeds its bandwidth, causing Angelfire to take it down temporarily.
MIDI composers and others will appreciate the freeware MIDGET series of programs to compose and play. Comes from the UK.
This is a free site for all those little things needed to dress up a homepage. Plenty of links to anything you might want, from a vast array of backgrounds to the tiniest push button. (If pop-ups annoy you, stay away from this pop-up zoo.).
Another free site like that with arrows and other visuals, plus Java scripts, is fg-a.com
Only Freeware is another great site. If you enjoy being hosted by a gent who knows humbug when he sees it, and has a great sense of humor, you'll love that place.
Another to check out is Freetips.com, Ed Osworth's guide to freebies.
Now for nostalgia. To download much of the freeware and shareware listed in our Guide we used to recommend Channel 1 in Boston. Not too many BBS sysops constantly strove for excellence and constantly achieved it, but that describes our old friend Brian Miller. He's also the only sysop ever asked to write an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal (on Massachusetts taxation.) Channel 1 had a subscription service with lots of nice features. The 100 gigabytes of file downloads were free. The link to the file library now fails, but it can always come back. Please?