Crazy House started as a BBS in early 1989 in Port Charlotte (941-423-0356), which is a pretty rural area, as a quasi-private system running Maximus on OS/2. It expanded to two lines with the first rolling over on busy to the second.
As time went on and I was spending less and less time in Port Charlotte and had bigger aspirations for the BBS as well. In early 1992 I moved the heart of the system 45 miles north to Sarasota (941-925-7998) but kept the Port Charlotte dial-up numbers (more on that later).
At this time I change the BBS software to Major BBS by Galacticom (later called Worldgroup– YUK!) and upgraded to sixteen telephone lines. By this time I had as much money into Crazy House as a really good used car. The chat room was by far the most used feature!
By the end of 1992 I had secured a 56K Frame Relay connection to the Internet via UUNet Technologies and became the FIRST private Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the 941 area code. It went commercial under the URL of flnet.com with the company name as "Florida Network Technologies, Inc."
As my day job was in the Telephony world (but not the phone company) I was able to, legally, social engineer the phone company to make changes within their system that allowed me to forward the Port Charlotte phone numbers to Sarasota without additional callers getting a busy signal until all the modems were busy. With this in place, and now due to higher demand, I tossed out the Galacticom Box (modem bank) added a terminal server along with another sixteen dial-up lines and upgraded to a half a T1. FreeBSD UNIX, which we had been playing with behind the scenes, became a cornerstone of FLnet's technology for the years ahead.
This worked out so well that I quickly added other forwarding lines to other cities in the area including Venice (941-496-4505), Punta Gorda (941-743-9189) and North Port (can't find those digits). And, again, added more dial-up lines to the system.
Later, due to high demand I installed a Point-of-Presence (POP) for Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda in North Port, FL (between Port Charlotte and Sarasota). I installed a Point-to-Point T1 between North Port and the main system in Sarasota and changed the Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda numbers to point to North Port. With the exception of another terminal server, more modems, and a FreeBSD box for administration purposes everything else was kept in Sarasota. For users this meant that the change was 100% transparent to callers– other than fewer busy signals.
At this point Crazy House was local to callers over more than a 75 mile north/south distance along Florida's Gulf Coast with a population of more than half a million people. Not bad for a BBS in rural America!
The BBS, unfortunately, became a forgotten milestone in technology and was used less and less. I pulled the plug on the BBS sometime in 1994 when the daily login, both modem and Internet callers, had dropped to less than a few a day. However flnet.com as an ISP lived on for another three years, through waves of new and ever expanding (and more expensive) hardware.
I saw the writing on the wall. The big ISP's were taking over, Mom-n-Pop ISP's like mine were becoming a dime a dozen. There was little room for the little guy. With my large customer base, due to our huge calling area, one of the big guys came in and bought out the rights to my customer base. I reluctantly sold.
Unfortunately my life does not consist of sitting on the beach, toes in the sand, and drinking a Mia-Tia all the while watching to make Jeeves puts two coats of wax the Ferrari. I am still an everyday working guy. Learned a ton of tech during the years of Crazy House / FLnet. I now work as an over paid consultant as a Unix System Administrator.
I wouldn't change a thing. well maybe Jeeves and the Ferrari.
Thanks for letting me share the legend of Crazy House!
Tim Grzechowski firstname.lastname@example.org