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First post, by James_Richards

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I Have MS-DOS working fine with internet, using mTCP and the telnet client bundled with it is great. However, in Windows the only telnet client I am finding seem to either only display the ANSI characters in black/white or they are in basic 4 colors and still just ansi characters and not graphic fidelity like the DOS client. I would use the mTCP client in a DOS window, but it requires all the connectivity info provided by mTCP and the DHCP executable provided with that. And until I figure out some way of having all of that be "aware" in windows 3.11, I have to reboot, edit an autoexec line and reboot again. Change sthe same line and reboot again just t o get back to Windows and the games/things I do there. I have tried CRT, SeraTerm, the telnet client in Windows, the telnet client provided by TCP=IP 32 and all are either not being setup by me correctly or just don't do what the DOS client does. Come to think of it, I am unable to even find a DOS telnet client as almost every web page I find has broken links or just doesn't exisat anymore (surprise, surprise). You'd also think the newer clients like (netrunner, msytic or qomodem, etc would have a Windows or DOS build as their advertising includes all the catch phrases for retro, classic or "oldnet"

...this could be fun...

Reply 1 of 25, by chinny22

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Not sure if its any use but I used to use the "communications" option in MS Works 3.0
I don't know how I even knew I could access BBS with this let alone how good it was as we were connected to the internet less then 6 months later.

Reply 2 of 25, by darry

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Under DOS, my favorite was Terminate by Bo Bendtsen. I remember that Telemate and Telix were popular back then as well.

I have no idea where one could acquire a licensed version of any of them these days.

Reply 3 of 25, by konc

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Terminate works fine under win3.x and 9.x, but I don't remember if the shareware version expires or just keeps nagging to register.
I never used another client before I abandoned BBSs for the internet, so I can't recommend a native windows application.

Reply 4 of 25, by Yoghoo

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I tried Cheyenne BitWare for Windows some time ago to test some BBS stuff under Windows 3.11. Worked okay with ANSI if I remember correctly.

But to be honest almost everyone used it under DOS (or OS/2; especially when running a BBS). I personally like Qmodem Pro on DOS but as mentioned above there were many alternatives like Procomm Plus (which also has a Windows version) and Terminate.

Reply 5 of 25, by Norton Commander

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I started BBSing with Crosstalk for DOS then Procomm Plus eventually settling on Telemate 4.12. When I had Windows 3.1 I used Telix 1.5d for Windows. The good thing about Telix is that it supports both physical (COM, internal modem) and telnet. I used it back then via dial-up but it also supports telnet connections. Here I am connected to a telnet ANSI BBS:

Screenshot-from-2024-07-04-13-42-57.png

There were others such as Procomm Plus 3 for Windows and Crosstalk. Never used Crosstalk for Windows but I remember Procomm Plus 3 being a suite of TCP utilities including a web browser.

Reply 6 of 25, by LoStSOul

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For dos, Terminate was a must
For windows, Telix, ZOC, qmodem

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Reply 7 of 25, by jakethompson1

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Any thoughts on Kermit for DOS?
It was known for having a bunch of terminal emulations. And it's still out there http://www.columbia.edu/kermit/mskermit.html so you can download a legitimate copy.

Reply 8 of 25, by davidrg

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jakethompson1 wrote on 2024-07-04, 21:48:

Any thoughts on Kermit for DOS?
It was known for having a bunch of terminal emulations. And it's still out there http://www.columbia.edu/kermit/mskermit.html so you can download a legitimate copy.

I was about to suggest this. I believe running under Windows 3.11 was a thing it officially supported. Joe Doupnik, the original author, has a slightly newer version of it over here: https://netlab1.net/pub/kermit/. The official book/user manual is now available in PDF from the Kermit Projects website too: https://kermitproject.org/mskermit.html

Reply 9 of 25, by appiah4

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Terminate for DOS is basically the gold standard here and it works fine under Windows 3.x over TCP AFAIR.

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Reply 10 of 25, by Norton Commander

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Let's play with Windows 3.1 terminal programs. Procomm Plus 3 for Windows was not just a terminal program but a whole internet suite. You get a terminal, Web browser, FTP client, mail and news clients in addition to Fax sending and receiving. Small wonder it requires 34 MB of disk space versus Telix for Windows 1.15d (5 MB).

The browser was probably good for its time but sadly can barely connect to Google. Couldn't connect to Vogons although Netscape 3 and IE5 can.

Screenshot-from-2024-07-05-11-35-11.png

The terminal connects ok but graphics get garbled.

Screenshot-from-2024-07-05-12-02-32.png

I had the same issue with Telix 1.15d WFW/PCEM and Telemate for DOS 4.12/DOSBOX. The BBSes display perfectly in Windows 10/SyncTerm and Netrunner.

Has the ANSI spec changed that much so that we can't use DOS/Windows 3.1 terminals to connect to telnet ANSI BBSes?

Reply 11 of 25, by Jo22

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Norton Commander wrote on 2024-07-05, 16:22:

Has the ANSI spec changed that much so that we can't use DOS/Windows 3.1 terminals to connect to telnet ANSI BBSes?

Different code pages, maybe?

English DOS had used codepage CP437, which also is part of PC BIOS, CGA/Hercules graphics cards (ROM chips holding fonts) and EGA/VGA BIOSes, unless being localized.
It's an extension to 7-Bit ASCII.

Windows 3x/9x had used "ANSI" codepages aka Windows codepages, with code page 1252 being English.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_page_437

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_code_page

Could be that modern BBSes had switched to UTF-8, maybe?

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In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 12 of 25, by Norton Commander

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Well that stinks. The irony of not being able to connect to a legacy system with legacy software..

At least we answered the OP's question - no, you can't BBS with Windows 3.11.

Reply 14 of 25, by Jo22

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Norton Commander wrote on 2024-07-06, 15:02:

Well that stinks. The irony of not being able to connect to a legacy system with legacy software..

Sorry, I didn't mean to sound disencouraging. 😥
It just seemed like a reasonable possibility.
To be 100% certain, asking the sysops of the BBS might be necessary.

I mean, in theory it might be possible to select different default fonts in Windows 3.1x.
So a pseudo Unicode font could be used, maybe. One that covers the most used characters.

If more than 8-Bits are needed for this to work, the Asian versions of Windows might help.
They don't support Unicode, but support double-byte encoded text characters for complex writing systems.
This feature might be useful to make a font that can hold enough characters.

Alternatively, it might be worth asking the creators of Telix or Procomm if they could consider making
a final update to the application, so that it can handle Unicode internally (or implement a translation scheme).
Or whatever encoding modern BBSes use.

I know, it sounds a bit farfetched, but I once talked to an author of an formerly popular DOS terminal program in my country (on the phone).
He was surprised by my young age, but otherwise very kind and chatty.
We ended up talking about the original War Games movie and other stuff.

Of course, this was a few years ago already, when BBSes were still on the landline.
Nowadays you can't be certain about age and health of former authors.
Writing a kind and short e-mail would be the least intrusive way of getting into contact.

These are just some thoughts, of course.
I've never been so much into the scene, I'm afraid, albeit I had operated a little mailbox myself at one point.

Edit: Windows NT 3.x supports Unicode and looks similar to Windows 3.1.
It's not exactly same, but in terms of nostalgia it could be close enough.
Maybe there's an Win32/Unicode compatible version of a classic terminal program?

Edited.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 15 of 25, by mbbrutman

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Before anybody writes off a system for BBSing, let's find out what the problem is.

  • Code pages are one possible problem.
  • UTF-8 is a more recent problem
  • Confusion between "real Telnet" (following the Telnet spec and implementing the Telnet protocol) vs. "characters over a socket" is another possible problem.

I can't tell from the screen dump whether UTF-8 is a problem here or not, but it's easy to see from a capture of the actual data stream. The same for the Telnet protocol question. Just get a capture of the data coming in, and we can tell what the problem is. (Most older terminal programs can do this.)

Reply 16 of 25, by jakethompson1

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mbbrutman wrote on 2024-07-07, 13:22:

[*]UTF-8 is a more recent problem

Along with that, even if the program on the other end isn't using UTF-8, if anything along the chain thinks it's dealing with UTF-8, it may mangle everything with substitution characters where there is a byte sequence that isn't valid UTF-8.

Reply 17 of 25, by Norton Commander

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Jo22 wrote on 2024-07-06, 00:06:
Different code pages, maybe? […]
Show full quote
Norton Commander wrote on 2024-07-05, 16:22:

Has the ANSI spec changed that much so that we can't use DOS/Windows 3.1 terminals to connect to telnet ANSI BBSes?

Different code pages, maybe?

English DOS had used codepage CP437, which also is part of PC BIOS, CGA/Hercules graphics cards (ROM chips holding fonts) and EGA/VGA BIOSes, unless being localized.
It's an extension to 7-Bit ASCII.

Windows 3x/9x had used "ANSI" codepages aka Windows codepages, with code page 1252 being English.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_page_437

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_code_page

Could be that modern BBSes had switched to UTF-8, maybe?

Sadly, it does appear to be an issue with code pages. I searched the telnet BBS guide for a system that is running legacy BBS software and found one:

https://www.telnetbbsguide.com/bbs/32-bit-bbs/

Running on Spitfire BBS instead of Image which gave me problems. I created an account and connected with Procomm Plus 3 for Windows. It rendered perfectly. I read messages, browsed the file area, navigated most of the menus.

image.png

I guess you have to make sure you are connecting to a BBS running old versions such as PCBoard, WWIV, Spitfire etc.

P.S. was unable to connect at all with Telemate 4.12/DOSBox.

Reply 18 of 25, by Jo22

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Norton Commander wrote on 2024-07-09, 17:37:

I guess you have to make sure you are connecting to a BBS running old versions such as PCBoard, WWIV, Spitfire etc.

P.S. was unable to connect at all with Telemate 4.12/DOSBox.

Hm. Maybe it's possible to do some mapping from UTF-8 to "ANSI"?
The special characters used in the garbled screenshot seem to be the same set that used to be used back in the day.
It's just another code number, maybe.

If the telnet session is meant to held on a dedicated vintage computer, then maybe it's possible to fix the issue externally?

An Arduino with an ethernet shield could provide a telnet connection and perform such an conversion easily.

It could even provide a serial connection to the PC side, so any ANSI capable terminal program could be used.

With a flip of a switch the UTF-8 to CP437 or Windows/ANSI codepage conversion could be disabled (for 1:1 data flow):
The software would simply check if an input pin is low or high.

In principle, conversion would only be needed one side (BBS to Terminal).
Since user input is mostly 7-Bit ASCII, the basic character are being understood by UTF-8. Umlauts might be a minor issue, though.

PS: There's technically another compatibility issue. Line break. CR LF (Windows), LF (Unix) and CR (Macintosh).
Most terminal programs can be configured to handle them, though.

Edit: Another idea is to use a special (hacked) serial port driver.
Windows 3.1 can use third-party serial port drivers.
So it might be possible to implement the conversion at the driver level instead of using an Arduino.

The basic idea is not much different to those virtual null-modem drivers on Windows XP and up. Or PDF printer drivers.
They repurpose the use case of a certain type of driver.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 19 of 25, by Norton Commander

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I doubt such a thing exists especially for MS-DOS systems. That's something that would be probably be easier to implement on the BBS side rather than the client side. I wonder if anyone has ever attempted to run a BBS in MS-DOS/PCEM or other DOS-emulated environment.

davidrg wrote on 2024-07-05, 01:24:
jakethompson1 wrote on 2024-07-04, 21:48:

Any thoughts on Kermit for DOS?
It was known for having a bunch of terminal emulations. And it's still out there http://www.columbia.edu/kermit/mskermit.html so you can download a legitimate copy.

I was about to suggest this. I believe running under Windows 3.11 was a thing it officially supported. Joe Doupnik, the original author, has a slightly newer version of it over here: https://netlab1.net/pub/kermit/. The official book/user manual is now available in PDF from the Kermit Projects website too: https://kermitproject.org/mskermit.html

I tried Kermit in WFW. Couldn't figure out how to set the terminal type or connect. I downloaded the PDF but it's an entire book that covers MS-DOS commands, etc. Basically, TL;DR.