MuffinTerm is a terminal program for connecting to bulletin board systems (BBSes) over the Internet via telnet.
It’s designed to visually emulate traditional PC text-mode hardware of the dial-up BBS era: The original MDA and CGA from 1981; EGA from 1984; and the popular VGA introduced in 1987. Starting with version 1.1, it also emulates the VIC-II video generator from 1982, as used by one of the most popular home computers of the 8-bit era.
It interprets the standard terminal sequences for controlling text attributes such as color and screen layout, and supports the most popular file transfer protocols (X/Y/ZMODEM) traditionally used on BBSes.
MuffinTerm is written in Swift and runs on macOS, iOS, and iPadOS.
MuffinTerm will run on any system that runs macOS 11 or later or iOS/iPadOS 14 or later. On iPad or iPhone, an external keyboard is recommended, but not required. You’ll also need an active Internet connection. If you have an iCloud account, you can also use it to sync BBS details between your devices, but that’s optional.
You can browse the full documentation through the links in the sidebar of this page; but if you want to dive in as quickly as possible, here’s how to get started right away!
First, you need at least one BBS to connect to—MuffinTerm isn’t a BBS itself. Fortunately, there are plenty of BBSes out there, just waiting for you to call! Not only that, but dedicated sysops (system operators) maintain and distribute lists of public BBSes, which you can conveniently import directly into MuffinTerm.
※ BBSes are privately run systems operated by individuals. MuffinTerm does not operate or endorse any specific BBS.
Head over to The Telnet BBS Guide, a popular directory that’s been a central database of BBS listings since the 1990s. You can peruse the entries on the web site if you like; but for now, go to the “Download BBS lists” link and download the latest archive file from the site. Monthly and daily compilations are available; pick whichever you prefer. It will download a ZIP file.
Once the file has downloaded, uncompress it (on macOS, double-click it in Finder; on iOS, you can do this through the Files application). There’ll be several files inside; for this quick-start guide, look for the syncterm.lst file and open it. This should automatically open MuffinTerm, which will then ask you if you want to import the BBS entries. Confirm the import, and it will then add all of the relevant entries to MuffinTerm’s dialing directory.
(If opening the file doesn’t launch MuffinTerm, then you might have another application that’s told your system that it can interpret LST files as well. In that case, refer to the dialing directory help page for instructions on manually importing a file.)
Next, open the dialing directory itself: On iOS/iPadOS, tap the screen to reveal the button bar at the top of the terminal, and click on the “telephone” symbol at the far left; on macOS, go to Console → Open Dialing Directory… in the application menu. As a shortcut, you can also press ⌘O to open the directory. (On an iPad or iPhone, you’ll need an external keyboard in order to use the shortcut.)
Finally, select a BBS from the list—whatever happens to look interesting to you!—and then click (or tap) the “Connect” button. (For more information about the dialing directory, see its documentation page.)
Assuming that the connection succeeded, congratulations! You’re now online on a BBS! (If it didn’t connect, just pick another from the list; you can always try the first one again later!)
Most BBSes are run as hobby projects by dedicated enthusiasts—some of whom have been running their BBS for decades! BBSes can vary quite a bit from one to the next, and a given BBS will often specialize in a particular topic or feature. Feel free to explore and see what you can find! Perhaps you might even end up running a BBS of your own at some point…!
To get the most out of MuffinTerm, be sure to visit the links in the sidebar on this page for more topics to explore.
For other BBS-related resources, you can check out web sites such as The BBS Corner, IPTIA, and Reddit r/bbs, watch BBS-related videos such as BBS: The Documentary and Back to the BBS, learn about classic door games at Break into Chat, peruse classic text files at TextFiles.com, and more… but perhaps the best way to learn more about BBSes is to dive in and give some a call! :)
iCloud, iPad, iPadOS, iPhone, Mac, macOS, and Metal are registered trademarks or service marks of Apple Inc. IOS is a trademark or registered trademark of Cisco in the U.S. and other countries and is used under license. Unicode is a registered trademark of Unicode Inc. Android is a tradmark of Google LLC. MuffinTerm is a trademark of Molly Black.