What is a BBS?

Bulletin Board System

Back in the depths of time before the internet, we had modems. Well some of us did, they were generally expensive and although good for the time, relatively slow.

What were we to do with these things? Some universities offered dialup access to their computer systems, but you needed to be a student to be able to do much. You might be working for a large corporation where your work is done on the remote system, while you're using a dumb terminal, or maybe your computer.

Somewhere around 1978 the first BBS was launched. I say around, because although there were some around already, the defining BBS style was put in place by two guys stuck at home during a blizzard. As the name suggests, it was initially a way to leave messages to other people, much as you'd leave paper notes on your fridge for family, or a noticeboard at work.

It didn't really take long from there to take off, with "doors" a seperate piece of software often games, that a launched by the BBS and look like part of the system. Message networks, a way to take messages from all the individual systems and share them across all manner of linked systems. It might have been a little slower, but you could get a message around the world. Of course there's also file transfer, the early 80's in particular was a hey day of computers of all sorts. Apple IIs, Z80 based CP/M systems, Tandy, Altair, Cromemco, Commodore PET and Vic20's before 64's arrived . They all needed their own kind of programmes, and BBS' would often keep quite large, well manicured files for the computers they had an interest in. It also made a great distribution point for all sorts of software written by Bob down the road, or even professional programmers with software that a publishing house didn't pick up. Here you could get software for free or a fairly modest fee.

So to sum it up a BBS is:

All at no cost.