Before the everyday availability and remote access to speedy internet connects, the people had to use dial-up modems and bulletin board systems. So, what is a BBS anyway? A bulletin board system is a computer ran software which allows users to be able to connect to the system through the use of terminal emulators.
Accessing the bulletin board system was accomplished through either a dial-up modem, through the internet because the BBS came about before the graphical user interface. The GUI, which is what allows users to see graphics like the ones you’re seeing now on this website versus a strictly textual interface, and before GUI, users had to remember certain codes and commands in order to communicate with the computer. Therefore, before the GUI, the BBS was text-based. The BBS was the main source of online communication throughout the 80’s and 90’s.
Functions of the BBS
Most bulletin board systems are created to focus on one particular subject, but there are some that can multitask with several different subjects. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, users would use the BBS to access explicit adult content to download. Generally, the BBS was free to access; however, there were some companies that would charge an access fee.
Some bulletin board systems would have their own websites, and some bulletin board systems accessed through various internet providers that users could download. Because the BBS was highly popular and allowed users to access virtual chat rooms, it had consequently developed its own culture and language. This is where most of the text and chat lingo we use today originated from.
Bulletin Board System and Snail Mail Email
Email today is roughly similar to the email through the BBS. The main difference between the two is the fact that immediate delivery of emails could only happen through a local BBS system. The only way someone could send an email to someone that was using a different bulletin board system was if the two different bulletin board systems connected to each other on a regular basis.
Each time one BBS connected to another BBS in order to deliver a message was referred to as a “hop”. When trying to send an email to someone who was very far away, several of these “hops” would have to be performed just to send one single email. It could take days for someone in Canada to receive an email from someone in Texas. Emailing through the BBS was more often than not a lot slower than standard priority mail.
In short, the bulletin board system was what individuals were required to use before the highspeed internet connections and WIFI that we have access to today. It was generally slow in sending and receiving images, it offered the first view of online graphics versus the old text-based servers, and it opened the doors to the online chat culture that we know today. Amazingly enough, there are still bulletin board systems in use to this day.