Bulletin Board Systems

     The computer Bulletin Board System (BBS) was the first collaborative tool available for the personal computer platform.

The first newspaper BBS, The Electronic Trib in 1990.

     It enables two or more computers to communicate using modems over telephone lines. At their height in the mid-1990s, there were over 60,000 BBSs in the United States alone. About 60 of them were operated by newspapers.
     The first BBS went up on Feb. 16, 1978 in the suburban Chicago home of Walt Christensen. It operated on a North Star Horizon 4 Mhz CP/M computer with a 5 MB hard drive and a 110 Bps modem. Christensen had to physically answer the phone and put the receiver into the modem's acoustic cups.
     Written to emulate a cork bulletin board, the system was designed for users to read and post messages. This eventually led to the creation of forums, special interest groups in which users could communicate among themselves about specific topics.

Utah Online, a mouse-driven newspaper BBS in 1994.

     As BBSs evolved, they became more and more sophisticated. Some allowed as many as 256 users to be connected at the same time to a single computer running BBS software (a "multi-line" system). Others could handle hundreds of users but required a separate computer for every user (a "multi-node" system).

Go back to the Online Timeline