6.09 - FOSSIL DRIVERS
[6.09.01] - WHAT IS A FOSSIL DRIVER?
A FOSSIL driver allows DOS based modem communication software
(i.e.: BBS Programs, Mailers and Door Games) to communicate through
a standard interface that talks to the actual serial port hardware.
The FOSSIL interface is an extention of the IBM BIOS Interupt 14h
functions, to read and write data to a serial port, and to configure
the serial port settings. In addition to providing communications,
a FOSSIL driver can also can be used as an interface for getting
input from the keyboard, and displaying characters to the video
screen (though programs usually use the BIOS or DOS functions to
handle this type of I/O). Some FOSSIL drivers support TCP/IP telnet
communications rather then just serial communications.
[6.09.02] - THE HISTORY OF FOSSIL DRIVERS
The word "FOSSIL" is actually an acronym for "Fido-Opus-Seadog
Standard Interface Layer". It was first conceived in 1986. In those
days there were many "IBM PC" clones that ran MS-DOS and had an 808x
or 80286 processor, but they all used different types of UART hardware
to control the serial ports, so trying to develop communication port
software to support all the differnt flavors of serial hardware was
a nearly impossible task.
Several developers got together to form the FOSSIL interface,
including Tom Jennings (Fido BBS author, and founder of FidoNet),
Wynn Wagner (Opus BBS author), and Thom Henderson (SEAdog mailer
author). A guy named Vince Perriello headed the project, and wrote
the first FOSSIL driver to allow his DEC Rainbow to run Opus BBS.
Vince also wrote the original FOSSIL specifications.
Soon afterwards, Bob Hartman developed OPUSCOM, which was the first
IBM PC compatible FOSSIL driver, and several other FOSSIL drivers
appeared for Non IBM PC compatible computers, such as the Tandy 2000,
the Sanyo MBC-55x, and the Heath/Zenith-100.
In 1987, Vince released the Revision 4 FOSSIL specifications, and
the same year two new FOSSILS were developed for PC's that were far
more powerful then OPUSCOM: David Nugent's BNU, and Ray Gwinn's X00.
These two FOSSILs were the DOS "standard" for many years. Both
authors provided input for the Revision 5 FOSSIL specification that
Rick Moore published in 1988. BNU's final release was in 1989, and
X00's final public beta was in 1993.
Three OS/2 FOSSIL drivers appeared in 1993. Ray Gwinn developed SIO,
an OS/2 Serial driver with FOSSIL support. It was a total rewrite
of X00, and it became the perfered driver for OS/2 communications.
Joakin Hernberg developed the VDF FOSSIL, and Greg Rumple developed
one called Magnum, but neither of these OS/2 FOSSILS could compete
with SIO and they soon vanished. SIO later added the ability to
create Virtual Modems (VMODEM) on a TCP/IP telnet connection.
Some more DOS FOSSIL drivers also appeared, which never gained much
popularity. Anders Danielson created ADF in 1993, but it did not
become widly used until the aftermath of the BBS scene in 1999,
when he re-released it as freeware. Mario Viara created FCI in 1994,
which was almost unheard of in USA. In 2004 Mario re-released FCI as
open source freeware to the public.
In 1994 the first FOSSIL drivers for Windows appeared. WinFossil by
Brian Woodruff was the first FOSSIL for Windows 95, but it was not
very compatible, and a bit unstable. Most Windows Sysops stuck with
DOS based FOSSILs such as X00 and BNU. Gerhard Wiesinger released
NTFOSS in 1995, which was the first FOSSIL for Windows NT. This was
an excellent FOSSIL driver both in performance and in compatibility,
but because it was expireware it did not gain much popularity in the
BBS world. Brian Woodruff later on started working on a version of
WinFOSSIL for NT with both COM port and telnet support, but it never
made it out of the beta stage unfortunatly.
In 1994 the first Virtual Modem / Virtual COM port for Windows 3.1
and 95 was developed by David Yon, called COMt. This allowed DOS FOSSIL
drivers like BNU and X00 to perform over a TCP/IP telnet connection.
David later became one of the founders of Tactical Software in 1996.
In 1995 a DOS FOSSIL Driver for TCP/IP over telnet/rlogin instead
of serial port communication was developed by Andrew Sapozhnikov
called RLFOSSIL. RLFOSSIL never gained much popularity, as it
required a DOS Packet driver and a high degree of skill to configure
it, and most Sysop techies had moved on to OS/2 or Windows which did
not use or require DOS packet drivers.
In 1997 Dedrick Allen developed a beta version of NetModem, a TCP/IP
telnet FOSSIL driver for Windows 3.1 and 95. The multinode version of
NetModem had serious stability problems which could result in Windows
crashing and rebooting unfortunatly, and Dedrick abandoned it before
the issues were resolved.
In 1998 a German company developed a product called CFOS, which was
actually a CAPI tool for ISDN modems which included a FOSSIL
interface. CFOS later evolved to become an ISDN and DSL download
optimizer and firewall, in addition to a FOSSIL interface.
In 1999, Tactical Software developed two FOSSIL drivers for their
COM/IP Virtual modem software (a rewritten COMt for Windows 9x/NT).
The NT FOSSIL was called TSNT14, and the 9x version was simply an
internal part of COM/IP. This became a popular telnet FOSSIL, but
it was a commercial product. PC Micro became the primary distributor
and support COM/IP at the turn of Y2K, and offered sysops a special
price of $50 for a 256 port license. Eventually Tactical changed the
pricing structure to over $1000 for the same count, and sold it
directly. It's market became commercial only.
In 2000 Rob Swindell ported his DOS based Synchronet BBS software
to Windows in *nix, and also wrote in internal FOSSIL driver for
Windows which allowed it to run DOS doors. Synchronet had been a
Commercial BBS program from 1992-1996, after which it was released
In 2001, PC Micro developed a freeware TCP/IP telnet FOSSIL driver
for Windows called NetFoss. PC Micro's BBS was a Sysop Support Site
from 1989 until 1999. Over the years it had been a beta and support
site for BNU, COM/IP, and several BBS packages including RemoteAccess,
ProBoard, and EleBBS. Also in 2001 EleBBS's author Maarten Bekers
developed SyncFos, a freeware interface that allowed the Synchronet
BBS FOSSIL driver by Rob Swindell to be used with other BBS software.
Rick Parrish later enhanced Maartins interface and renamed his version
mSyncFos, which became part of his GameSrv telnet server package.
[6.09.03] - WHAT FOSSIL DRIVERS ARE AVAILABLE?
DOS FOSSIL DRIVERS:
ADF 1.50 - Freeware - http://www.digsys.se/adf.html
BNU 1.70 - Freeware - http://pcmicro.com/bnu
X00 1.53 - Freeware - No offical site
FCI 1.07 - Freeware - http://www.viara.cn/en/fci.htm
WARNING: There are fake versions of BNU 2.02 and X00 2.02
being distributed. Both authors have confirmed these are
fakes, released by a hacker.
There is a real beta version of BNU 1.89h, but it does not
work as well as 1.70. X00 1.53 was a public beta version
that added support for BAUD rates over 38400 bps, and was
considered to be the best DOS FOSSIL driver for many years.
ADF performs better then BNU or X00 under Windows however,
since it release idle timeslices to the OS.
DOS FOSSIL DRIVERS can only work on COM1-COM4 under Windows
WINDOWS FOSSIL DRIVERS:
NETFOSS 0.8.1 - Freeware - http://netfoss.com
SYNCFOS 2.2 - Freeware - http://elebbs.com/index.elm?catagory=18
mSYNCFOS (mod) - Freeware - http://www.randm.ca/products/msyncfos
NETFOSS runs fastest, and is considerably smaller in size.
OS/2 FOSSIL DRIVERS:
SIO 2.03 - Shareware - http://www.gwinn.com
Many other FOSSIL drivers can be found at these sites:
BBS Archives - formerly run by PC Micro
The COMM Port OS/2 - run by Bob Juge
DOS FOSSIL Drivers - the bookcase library
[6.09.04] - HOW DO I ADD A FOSSIL DRIVER TO MY BBS?