A bulletin board system or BBS is a computer system running software that allows users to dial into the system over a phone line and, using a terminal program, perform functions such as downloading software and data, uploading data, playing games, reading news, and exchanging messages with other users.The BBS heyday was from the late 70s to the late 90s. Originally much of the information was plain text and ANSI art. The phenomenon sported it’s own magazines and BBS networks that provided a variety of different access, gateways, message boards, and information. With the rise of commercial internet access, the systems lost popularity.
The first BBS in existence was the CBBS (Computerized Bulletin Board System). Originally a computer program created by Ward Christiansen to allow him and other members of the Chicago Area Computer Hobbyists Exchange to share information with each other, he created a protocol that enabled the sending of binary files over a modem. After further experimentation during a raging blizzard that struck Chicago that winter, Christiansen and friend Randy Suess put together the hardware and software for the system. On February 16th, 1978, the CBBS was online.
At the time, the internet wasn’t much and users had to dial in to the CBBS computer via modem directly. Although users could only access it one at a time, the CBBS spawned an entire community of BBS systems that have lasted well into the modern age. The advent of the internet took alot of the thunder away from BBS systems, but CBBS helped foster some of the original ideas behind user forums and message boards. CBBS lives on today to an extent with the invite-only forum on Suess’ website, chinet.com