On February 16, 1978, Ward Christensen and Randy Suess launched the first-ever dial-up BBS in Chicago. The idea stemmed during a blizzard that kept them indoors that helped create the first electronic bulletin board and ultimately, one of the first social networks. In modern usage, the term BBS may be used to refer to USENET newsgroups or other online type forums or social network outlets.
The first BBS was visionary as it created a way to circumvent the fundamental, age-old rules of socializing by responding to bulletin board ads found in the foyers of libraries and churches around the world. USENET, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and the entirety of the World Wide Web would later catapult with the same goal in mind.
Online BBSs formed much of the the core “cyberspace” in the 1980s and paved the way for many users to find and use USENET newsgroups. BBS is short for “Bulletin Board System” which is has been a social networking platform that not only predates sites like Myspace and Facebook, but also the World Wide Web. As one of the first online communication methods, users would dial in directly to other users via modem connection and share information. Most BBS networks were not linked in real-time. Instead, each would dial up the next in line, and/or a regional hub, at preset intervals to exchange files. It was the first step of what we know the World Wide Web to be today. A better, simpler system later followed – USENET.
Rather than mirroring the meet-and-greet and services-offered format of real-world bulletin boards, BBSes very quickly became forums. Questions were asked and anonymously answered.
It was several decades before the hardware or the network caught up to Christensen and Suess’ imaginations, but all the basic seeds of today’s online communities were in place when the two launched the first bulletin board, dubbed CBBS for computerized bulletin board system. The two developers announced their creation to the world in the November 1978 issue of Byte magazine.
It’s hard to say where USENET would have been if not for the BBS. As many early adapters, the infant stage of USENET were full of BBS users that formed the most popular newsgroups that exist to this day, thirty years later.