Shell, the way we define it, is the ability to dial up a computer and get access to a mainframe or larger system, and send commands to that system. This sounds limited, and it is. On the other hand, shell accounts are often faster, offer a range of services that while less visually attractive are comparable in power and speed to conventional SLIP/PPP services, and are your best chance for getting on the net with older computers like very old PCs and Macintoshes, Commodore 64s, Apple IIs, and other systems that can't utilise SLIP/PPP (or can't do so at a functional level). A shell account furnishes Internet access to these machines with just a regular terminal program.
The Shell Game only lists shell accounts directly accessible by dial-in. While telnet accounts technically count as shell accounts, since you do usually get a shell of some sort, many sites require you to connect via SLIP or PPP first, which defeats the purpose. We also tend not to list BBSes, since many of these, while excellent, helpful and quite functional, do not offer the level of flexibility that a stock shell account would. We do list some of the better ones, however. We lean towards Unix hosts -- we think you will too.
None of our providers have paid to be listed. We just list the ones we find, and express no preference, opinion or recommendation.
We do not list services affiliated with educational institutions. Professors, staff and students should check with their universities, because odds are there is a dialup shell for (practically) nothing available to you. Just about all of them are Unix.
Unfortunately, hardly any nationwide ISP offers dialup shell these days. The relative paucity of ISPs providing dialup shell, or even any kind of shell access at all, is due to the misconception that doing so is a security risk. Hogwash. Any misconfigured server is a security risk, even ones that just do SLIP/PPP. The only difference is that the people who hack into shell systems tend to be more techno-savvy, but that's not the server's fault. Any site run with poor security deserves all the trouble it gets.
Just get any terminal program -- if you're not sure of what to get, try the Columbia University Kermit program which runs on just about every platform in existence, even things like Luxors and LISP boxen. Then find a provider in our list, visit their web site, and say, "I want a dialup shell account." Make sure you say both magic words "shell" and "dialup" because many will assume a Telnet shell account if you don't. Be explicit that you want a dialup shell, not PPP or SLIP. Customer service people are often technically inept.
Once you've got your login and password, dial your closest access number and log in. Ta-daa.
Most services are Unix-based, and the main page has a selection of Unix tutorials available. Learning Unix is a valuable skill, so it's highly recommended.
Find out what transfer protocols your terminal program supports and then
find the matching program on your account. For example, Kermit supports Kermit.
Many others support XModem, YModem or ZModem. You type the appropriate command
or commands below to do the transfer. IMPORTANT! Most transfers
require an 8-bit clean connection, and if you had to Telnet or rlogin to
a new host to get a shell prompt, you are probably on a 7-bit connection.
Try adding the -8 option (like
rlogin -8 somehost) to get that
eighth bit back.
Here are the commands you use. These may vary slightly from system to system.
When in doubt, read the manual (type
man and the name of the
To send a file in Kermit from your Unix host to you,
filename. Then go into your Kermit client's command mode and type
To receive, type
receive to the host and
send filename. If you are not using a true Kermit client,
but just one that understands Kermit, then refer to your documentation
To send a file in XModem, YModem or ZModem from your Unix host to you,
sx sb or
sz, plus the
sx file), and then start a download in
your terminal program. To receive, type (respectively)
rz, and then start an upload in your terminal program.