A Bbs Sampler

Bulletin-board systems are the garage bands of cyberspace -- playing at the fringe and sometimes hitting it big. A few to look at:

New Berlin, Wis.

414-789-4500 (data) 800-393-2721 (voice) telnet to bbs.execpc.com http://execpc.com/

$75 per year subscription; limited free accounts available.

With about 500,000 compressed shareware packages to choose from, this enormously popular software BBS could keep you occupied for hours while you download more software than you could ever use. Exec-PC is expecting its 10 millionth caller in late April.Channel

Cambridge, Mass.

617-349-1300 (data) 617-864-0100 (voice) telnet to bbs.channel1.com

$25 for three months (or 15 hours of online time); $75 a year (or 60 hours)

Channel 1 offers a shareware library, Internet newsgroups, linked bulletin boards, daily financial-market news and online games.

San Clemente, Calif.

714-492-0724 (data) No telnet access. Free.

This one-modem BBS is devoted to, you guessed it, Sherlock Holmes. Three online databases point you to 600 Sherlock Holmes societies worldwide, a list of publications on the uber-sleuth and contacts for about 400 sellers of souvenirs.

St. Michaels, Md.

410-745-2037 (data) telnet to housenet.com

$35 per year subscription; limited free accounts available.

(See main story for details.)

Cleveland, Ohio

216-861-0469 (data) telnet to books.com

An online bookstore carrying 240,000 titles. The inventory database is searchable by title, author, subject and keyword. This free BBS also has conferencing areas.

Austin, Texas

512-302-4004 (data) telnet to spring.com; log in as "new"

Free telnet access; $20 per month dial-up access.

The Spring, according to owner Terry Walhus, is a virtual-community BBS that offers its members a place to "hang out and talk to each other."