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From: Bill Mertens

This is the story of two BBSs, three different BBS names and three different sysops.

It started with TBAWL - The Blue and White Lion, which was set up as the BBS of the Central Pennsylvania IBM PC Association in early 1983 running PC Board 10.0 (shareware version) soon followed by PC Board 11.0 (commercial) on a clone 8086 with a 20 megabyte harddrive.

I was the first sysop, though I lived in State College, PA and the BBS physically resided in Bellefonte, PA - 9 miles away in the home of one John Yocum. Long and tiresome story, as to why it was there, but basically I didn't want it in my house, figuring it would take more time than I was able to give. So we put it in Bellefonte, in John's house, where distance would, I thought, make it less likely that it would eat up too much time. Heh.

Mark Geleskie and I initially spent many hours figuring out how to get it to run. John Yocum was nominally the co-sysop in charge of rebooting the machine when it crashed.

After it was running and I had a decent idea of what each bit did, I more or less ran it by remote control: I had an exact copy of the board on a computer at home and any changes that were necessary, I first made on my home machine, then zipped up the changed configuration files, uploaded them to TBAWL, dropped to DOS, unzipped (or unArced) the file and moved the files to the appropriate directory. Only rarely causing the board to crash!

I ran it that way for about 9 months, then the time necessary to keep the board current began to be an issue for me and John Yocum thought he could run it by himself, so I bowed out and left him to it. This arrangement lasted three months until John decided that running a BBS entailed a bit more time and knowledge than he had thought <grin>. So the club then got Alan Claver took it over, and the BBS was moved it to his house - in State College where he ran it for quite a few years, going thought a new computer (Proteus 386), several very expensive harddrives, etc., while eventually moving to two nodes under multitasking software.

In the meanwhile, about 3 months after TBAWL started. A guy named Greg Granville started a BBS in Osceola Mills, PA that was initially called the NEUG Lifesaver BBS (for the National Epson User Group). It also ran PC Board. He ran it for few years from Osceola Mills, but it never really caught on because: 1) hardly anyone in Osceola Mills (a VERY small town) had a computer, much less a modem and, 2) it was a long-distance call from State College (which had (comparatively) lots of people/computers/modems).

After awhile and to attract more callers, Greg moved the NEUG BBS to a business in State College called Design Mirage. Among other things, they were a both a Commodore dealer and produced some (for the time) excellent computer animations for television on Amigas.

After the NEUG board moved to State College, I started calling it and soon volunteered to help with the IBM DOS file section (the board had files for the early Epson computer (hence the National Epson User Group), the Amiga (which was Greg's real interest) and the IBM PC.

In short order, I became co-sysop and the name of the board was changed from NEUG Lifesaver to Magnetic Bottle (as in a container for a fusion reaction). Greg disliked the name 'NEUG Lifesaver', thinking it sounded like a religious board. Perhaps it did. Anyway, we changed the name and the board began to take off.

This impressed the guys who ran Design Mirage, who wanted to use part of the BBS for "product support". Though they initially allowed it on their premises and paid the initially small phone bill because Greg did some consulting for them and they wanted to keep him sweet.

One thing led to another and soon we were adding echomail (RIME and then ILink) and then a second node. Unlike TBAWL, the second node was another computer and both were networked with LANtastic. The idea of doing "product support" for Design Mirage customers never really happened and after a year or so they decided that the bills for two phone lines and long distance calls for echomail and files were too pricey, so we began selling subscriptions (TBAWL was, of course, paid for by the members of the CPIPC, which at the time had about 400 members).

Much to my amazement, people were actually willing to pay and we got enough in subscriptions to cover the cost of running the board. By this time, I was running the board by myself, Greg's interest had shifted to other projects and, as I had predicted with TBAWL back in 1983 - running a BBS, even though this one wasn't in my home either, took an amazing amount of time. I generally went in at 7 PM and stayed until 1 or 2 in the morning to keep everything up to date.

Still, after a year or two, Design Mirage had a change of management and the new people very gently asked that the board move. So I decided to shut it down.

This was announced on the board and a few weeks later, one of the users, who was an engineer with a firm of civil engineers in Altoona, PA, offered to underwrite the entire cost of the board, this included paying to have phone lines installed for it at my home, plus all expenses for phone lines and long distance calls. Amazing.

So that's what happened. Magnet moved to my place and lived there for three more years, all telephone expenses being covered by Gwin, Dobson & Foreman, Civil Engineers. But they too finally came to their senses and decided that although many of their people had enjoyed the BBS, they had better use for the money and so again I almost shut it down. I was perfectly willing to run it, but I didn't want to pay the phone bills, figuring the work I put in, plus the investment I made in hardware (LANtastic, new computers, harddrives, modems… etc.) plus subscriptions to other, much bigger boards to get files, was a big enough contribution.

But again, fate intervened. Alan Claver decided to give up TBAWL and the CPIPC asked me to take it over. We agreed to merge the two boards, with the name TBAWL being discontinued and Magnetic Bottle continuing. I took the single TBAWL machine, now quite elderly but with a huge SCSI harddrive) and added it to the LANtastic network. Switched lots of stuff and Presto! TBAWL became part of Magnetic Bottle.

The merged boards continued to run for 5 or 6 more years, to 1999 when, with echomail pretty much dead thanks in part to the Internet and in part to unwillingness of the people running the networks to stay current - and (for Magnet) a user base that was had shrunk to less than 10 regular callers, we decided that the board had had a good run and it was time to pack it in.

And that's the story of three names and two BBSs that became one.


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