If you’re young, you would definitely be forgiven for not even knowing what a BBS (Bulletin Board System) is. But, in the ’80s and ’90s BBS boards were a popular way for people to communicate, sort of like the internet forums that would later become the norm. And though BBS has certainly fallen out of favor with the general populace, it’s still popular with some groups — particularly with retrocomputing enthusiasts.
Blake Patterson is one such enthusiast who enjoys using BBS boards, and has even used a Raspberry Pi to get an Amiga 1000 online and onto those boards. Now, he’s back and doing the same thing with a vintage Epson PX-8 “Geneva laptop from 1984. The PX-8 should probably only be considered a laptop by the loosest of definitions, and is more like a keyboard with a tiny monochrome LCD readout.
But, the PX-8 was cool because it was actually portable in a time when most competitors were barely luggable. It had a Z80-compatible microprocessor, and ran the CP/M operating system from ROM chips, and stored data on microcassette tapes. Unfortunately for people who want to communicate on a BBS, it didn’t have any kind of modem.
What it did have was a serial port so that it could act as a terminal. So, Patterson took advantage of that and created a USB-to-serial adapter to get it connected to a Raspberry Pi 2. With Pi online and talking to the PX-8 through serial, he was able to log onto Level 29 — his favorite BBS board which is designed specifically for the low-resolution displays of vintage computers.