Remember Bulletin Boards?

in #computerslast year

Before there was a Web 1, let alone a Web 3, we already had electronic social media.

They were called Bulletin Boards or BBS.

I mentioned in a previous article how WarGames sparked my imagination about computers. That movie heavily involved modems, of the acoustic coupler variety.


You see, back in the old days, we had to use the telephone system to dial-up text-only BBS where we would chat, download, upload, play games - the equivalent of "sites", or forums.

Growing up in England where we didn't have free or even really discounted local calls, and where there were no BBS local anyway, I had to rely on rich friends to experience bulletin boards.

That was until I was gifted a broken modem from the general hospital I did a work experience placement at. Stupid me decided the first thing I was going to do is download some high resolution (for the time) 3D rendered images from ray-tracing programs.

I think I managed to get one download before someone picked up the telephone and cut my connection. A very expensive mistake to make. After that I tried to get on, get done, and hang up as quickly as possible.

To put this in perspective, today I have a one-gigabit connection but back then my modem, on a good day, was capable of only 1,200 bits per second.

Most of what we did was therefore low-bandwidth, emulating the dumb terminals of businesses and libraries, etc, using character-mode.


A lot of very famous programmers got their start logging into university systems to learn BASIC language that way.

When I worked for the UK national health service we would have entire hospitals of admin staff sharing a single telephone line to do their work on the mainframe/mini systems. As you can imagine, that was slow even for then.


Going from a 1200 to 9600, and then to 14.4 modem was amazing. Then really advanced technology came in with 33.3 and 56k.

But they still had to dial up, do their business, and disconnect. What you really needed for full internet experience was an "always on" connection that couldn't be disconnected by someone making a telephone call.

The first leased line connection I ever set up for internet use was 128kbit, and it was shared not only for the community college I was working at but also many of the local schools and libraries. Fortunately back then websites that fit on a 3.5" floppy would be considered bloated!

It was soon upgraded in stages, getting up to 2mbit before I left.

At home I had a modem until I got ISDN, another kind of modem using the telephone system, and then ADSL which is meant to be "broadband" but using British Telecom, it wasn't. I didn't get actual broadband until I moved to Canada!


I also had a friend of a friend who had access to a bulletin board ^^ My first own internet connection was dialing in via ISDN. The connection was paid per minute what caused some expensive "Ultima Online" sessions 😅

Absolutely, even though you could connect and disconnect quickly with ISDN, supposedly making it more economical, so many things back then kept your connection open that really wasn’t a thing 🤣

ahh yes..playing rpg games like this:
X * $$$ |
_________________* |

ahh i failed with my asci art


Wargames was one of the movies that sparked my interest in computers as well. The other was Tron. I had a Commodore 64 in the late 1980s but never really called BBSes with it. That didn't happen until I got my first PC in 1993. BBSes were still thriving then though as it would be a few more years until the Internet really took over. I think I first got broadband in 1999, as soon as it was available in my area. For me it was cable, not DSL.