44CON’s always been the kind of place where you turn up, hang out with friends old and new, get your head bent then go home and get on with your life. But we want to do more than that. We’re building a permanent community for everyone, whether you come to 44CON or not. We’re also mostly old(er Steve, damnit! – A) and riddled with nostalgia. Instead of using Snapbook, or Slickchat or whatever the cool kids use, we thought we’d build a traditional Bulletin Board System and drag it kicking and screaming into the modern age.
To say this was a bad idea was an understatement. Our first attempt used a hodge-podge of Docker, a piece of DOS-based software last updated before the average attendee was born and one instance of a DOS emulator per connection. It worked, but was telnet only (thanks to the joys of serial emulation) and was very, very unstable.
In the end we settled on a modern BBS implementation that has a learning curve almost as steep as Radare2, but allows us to do cool modern things, like provide access over SSH and HTTPS. Originally we worked on supporting older platforms like the BBC Micro, C64 and ZX Spectrum, but everything old struggled with newer software, and everything new struggled with older software.
Finally, we have something we think you’re going to love. Registration will open on the 12th of September. May we present the official 44CON rumour mill, Juicy HQ:
For those of you who’ve never used a BBS before, the first thing you need to know is that you apply for an account (register). Once you’ve filled in a form, you’ll be taken to the new scan screen. This is to check for updates since you last logged on. There are public and private message areas, file uploads (check out our collection of classic British hacking textfiles, or our PoC||GTFO archive) and you can play multiplayer old-school BBS games courtesy of our DoorParty setup. If things seem a little less interactive, remember that BBSes were typically built to serve very few, if any concurrent users, and most content was downloaded in batches for later offline use.
Most British people never really got to use dial-in BBSes back in the day due to BT’s monopoly and pricing, although Prestel and Micronet had some popularity. There was one information system that every British person had access to, which was Teletext. On the BBC, we had Ceefax. So we built our BBS around a Ceefax theme, although you might spot the odd reference to Teletext classics such as Bamboozle and even Digitiser. And yes, all of this is accessible in a web browser.
Although Juicy HQ is the official 44CON BBS, it’ll be open to everyone from the 12th of September. Whether you’ve been to 44CON or not, live in the UK or not, or if you’ve never been to a conference before, all are welcome providing Wheaton’s law is followed at all times.
We’re still refining Juicy HQ in preparation for launch, but we’re making sure there’s plenty of easter eggs for you to find. If you’re interested in beta testing the BBS, give Steve a shout on twitter or mastodon and he’ll hook you up.