Profile of an Internet Technology – Bulletin Board Systems

Taylor Barber

Media Studies 255

Professor Monroy

September 24, 2011



Bulletin Board Systems

“The computer Bulletin Board System (BBS) was the first collaborative tool available for the personal computer platform” (Carlson).  The Bulletin Board System is text based, which means that there is no point and click.  The keyboard is how the functions are performed.  The BBS does not have much graphics, and it has only basic colors. This system makes it possible for two or more computers to communicate with each other when connected to a modem over telephone lines. The BBS allows a computer at home to connect to a computer in the outside world to share an immense amount of information and data.  This electronic media lets people download and upload programs for other users and has the technology to have users log in and exchange messages. Bulletin Boards were one of the first online communities.  The BBS software also offers online games that users can compete with each other.  Also, BBS’s with multiple phone lines can have chat rooms which let the users interact with one another. Carlson’s article explains that “the system was designed for users to read and post messages and this eventually led to the creation of forums, special interest groups in which users could communicate among themselves about specific topics.”

The first Bulletin Board System went up in 1978 in Chicago by Walt Christensen.  This first system was not very advanced and was complicated to use.  “Christensen had to physically answer the phone and put the receiver into the modem’s acoustic cups” (Carlson).  These early systems were operated from the system operator’s homes.  This made access very unreliable and sometimes only one user could be on the system at a time.  The larger BBS’s with multiple phone lines, multitasking software, and a LAN connecting multiple computers could have simultaneous users (Hathway).  The Bulletin Board System was evolving and becoming more and more sophisticated.  Carlson’s Article stated that “Some allowed as many as 256 users to be connected at the same time to a single computer running BBS software.”

The early BBS was slow and wasn’t as popular.  As the speed started increasing in the early 1980’s and so did the popularity.  By the early 1990’s the BBS became so popular magazines started being distributed to explain the software, technology, and the people who helped create the Bulletin Board System (Hathway).  One of the first commercial Bulletin Board Systems was by the company Prodigy.  Prodigy made social media more mainstream and gained mass attraction quickly with its color interface.  In an article is said the Bulletin Board System “at their height, there were over 60,000 BBS’s in the United States alone” (Carlson).  Around 60 of the systems were operated by newspapers.  Early BBS’s contained information that never left the system and users could only interact with information and user communities only on that BBS. As BBS’s became more evolved the BBS changed so systems could connect together to share messages and files with distant systems and users (Hathway).

The decrease of the BBS happened when the World Wide Web was introduced and replaced the BBS for systems that used the internet for connectivity.  Some of the larger commercial Bulletin Board Systems switched and became internet service providers.  From Bulletin Board Systems to new social networking sites the technology has changed, but the main idea and purpose is the same.

Bulletin Board Systems can still be found on the internet today.  Telnet makes Bulletin Board Systems accessible on the internet.  Telnet lets users be interactive with the remote computer. The host computer, which is the BBS, takes commands from the client, the user’s computer, and performs functions and sends the output to the remote computer.  Most modern computer operating systems have a Telnet Client, which gives access to telnet systems directly.  So there is no installing any additional software to use the BBS.  There are still Bulletin Board Systems that are dial-up accessible.  The Telnet Bulletin Board Systems are similar to the older BBS systems.  This can be seen as good for many reasons.  For example, people that have used BBS for many years don’t want to change and start all over.  Adding a virtual modem software to the BBS will allow dial-up BBS to work on the internet.  There are still existing BBS programs that will work better on the traditional BBS interface rather than on the web.  The Telnet system is very similar to the BBS interface, so it is easy to change from the old way to the new way.  This lets people continue using the system they prefer without going out of date.

Telefinder is a BBS software that can set up an internet site for businesses, schools, or organizations.  Telefinder has mail and public messaging that provides quick and easy communication. In Telefinder people can keep in touch with colleagues, clients, and friends around the world.  Telefinder includes quick file transfers to share and distribute important data. “TeleFinder has server-to-server mail networking built right into the system. Using TeleFinder’s mail routing capabilities, you can easily link your system to other TeleFinder bulletin boards to exchange mail and news groups” (BBS Corner).  Telefinder allows users to use BBS messaging quicker than before.

The Bulletin Board System has been very effective in growing technology.  This system is easy to understand and used on a daily basis. The Bulletin Board System started the whole connection between computers.  This opened up technology to move on a lot further.  BBS started messaging between users and allowing users to download and upload programs.  BBS is an ancestor to the internet today, but it got technology started.  After the creation of the BBS the internet evolved to be a very simple system used all the time around the world.   The Bulletin Board System has made it possible for users to become a community in the web world.




Works Cited

Carlson, David. “The Online Timeline.” Virtual World. 2009.

“The Evolution of Social Media.” Hathway. 2011.

“The Original Social Network.” The BBS Corner: April 1996. July 2011.

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