History of WWIV

The Official History of WWIV

By Wayne Bell Random 1@1
Originally posted in WWIVNEWS Volume 1, Issue 1, January 1991

WWIV started around December 1984, when I first put up a BBS. It was run on an IBM-PC with a 10 meg hard disk and a Hayes 1200. I was running WWIV v1.0, which was in interpreted BASIC. It crawled along quite slowly, and did not have a whole lot of features. About the only other BBSs I was competing with at the time were run on Apple II's, also running in interpreted BASIC. Of course, there were RBBSs and the like, but I do not recall ever having called one. Soon the 64k limitation of IBM interpreted BASIC became apparent. I did some pretty strange stuff with memory allocation and string storage, but I had pretty much reached the cutoff point. When you try typing in 30 lines of a message and the result is an "out of memory" error, you know it is time to go on to something better.

The better thing was Turbo Pascal 2.0. Turbo 2.0 did not have ANY support directories (all file I/O was within your current directory only). I also had quite some trouble getting comm routines working. With the release of Turbo 3.0, I put up WWIV v2.0. Soon after that I got REAL interrupt-driven comm routines, and things started moving along.

I had to go off to UCLA, and was forced to take the BBS down. Around December 1985 on Christmas vacation, I decided to put the BBS back up for some reason. I did some major revamping at some time around then, and called it WWIV v3.0. Still in Turbo Pascal 3.0, though. Around this time (December), I got around to putting in a file section. It took quite a bit of work getting xmodem working, and I had to go back and re-format my data files to allow for file descriptions. Since I had never actually been on any other IBM-type BBS, I had no clue as to how the file section should work, so things turned out pretty randomly.

On January 1, 1986 I finally released WWIV v3.0. It ended up going through quite a few revisions, especially in the first week or two after being released. And, to make things even more fun, I had to resume classes at UCLA, so I ended up pretty much writing WWIV without running a BBS. As you may guess, this caused a few unfortunate bugs to slip by me, but that's life.

Sometime around June 1986, I had decided to put in ANSI color and call it WWIV v3.2. This involved re-formatting the user list (to store the user's color selections), and a few other little fun things, so I decided to put up a BBS again. This was only for a week because I had to move back up to UCLA after that time for the summer session. You might think that not many people would end up calling a BBS that is pretty much stated as only being up for a week, but it managed to get some pretty good activity. To make this week even more fun, for about half of it I was not there. I had a friend of mine, Stephen Davis, call up and remotely take care of this experimental BBS. It even managed to make it without crashing.

After releasing that, it turned out that I had a pretty bad bug in the Y-Modem routine. The BBS would read in a block of data, and THEN seek to the right place in the file instead of FIRST seeking then reading. So I came out with 3.20a rather quickly. Around January 1987 I put up the BBS again, running 3.21d.

Then around June 1987 I started writing WWIV v4.0. Naturally, since I had a summer job, things did not go so fast. Also, the fact that I had never written anything in my life in C before did not help. I eventually got the hang of things. Finally, on Dec 1, 1987, I put up 4.0 as my BBS for testing in real life. Among my big promises of how great it would be, I said it would support networking among systems. I thought this sounded like a good idea, only I had no clue as to how I would go about implementing it at the time. So I relegated that to "don't hold your breath" status, secretly thinking I might never get around to it.

Surprisingly, I did get around to it relatively soon. By that time, everyone had already installed the BBS on their computers, so I was stuck with the format I had dreamed up a long time ago when I had no clue how it would work -- a number 1-65535 indicating which system was which. I ended up trying to design a network around that, although it was not quite the optimal solution (as if is such a thing). I was bored one day and had been talking with someone about a network, so I decided to start writing a program to send files between computers. There was no planning at all, I just pretty much sat down and typed it in. That developed into the NETWORK.EXE program.

Of course, there was more to it than that. It was actually after I had the NETWORK.EXE program mostly working that I started thinking about how the systems would connect together. I originally started with the idea of having it pretty much hierarchial, with a local-system list for all systems to call directly any systems that were local. After talking with Stephen Davis about this for a while, I decided to pretty much have it grid-like, with an amorphous structure. That does not, however, prevent some structure from being applied to it. Without any software changes, it can be easily changed over to a straight hierarchial structure. All I would have to do is set up the hierarchy, change one file, and send out an update of that.

Well that pretty much brings me up to the present time. Future expansion? Who knows. One thing that keeps appearing is a multi-line WWIV. That just is not practical. WWIV depends upon many external programs (chains, FSED, archiving programs) and you can NOT, practically, have the BBS run external programs without running under a multi-tasking operating system. To put it simply, PC-DOS was not designed with multi-tasking in mind.

WWIV Software Services

In January of 1998, Dean Nash purchased WWIV and WWIV Software Services from Wayne Bell. WSS was reformed as a Tennessee Limited Liability Company with a full corporate posture. Craig Dooley was appointed Support Coordinator and supervises the Support Board System and Source Distribution Sites.


WWIV 5.0 was started in 1999 with moderate progress which picked up in earnest in 2003. On going development and daily build releases continue to this day.

On September 18 2004 WSS announced that WWIV 5.0 would be open source under the Apache License. Originally the code was managed on Sourceforge, but in 2015 development was moved to GitHub.

Original Open Source Announcement

WWIV Hall of Fame

HOF Member Handle Node Contributions
Wayne Bell Random WWIVnet @1 The creator of WWIV
Dean Nash Trader Jack WWIV Software Services
Adam Caldwell The Emporer WWIVEdit
Craig Dooley WWIVToss

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