Thursday, May 26, 2005

BBS Documentary

For the young 'uns that's Bulletin Board Systems.

Before the Internet was democratized, there were BBS's. At their largest, they were big multi-line operations. My service of choice was Channel 1 Communications in Cambridge, MA. Communications software like Telix and off-line new readers like Qmail let people snarf the contents of various discussion forums onto their PCs. After all, telephone rates were higher back then. BBS's were also where Freeware, Shareware, and less savory files and programs were exchanged. (Mostly legal in the case of the big operations, less so in the case of smaller and shadier ones.

Compared to today's Internet, BBS's could be much more intimate and could even be the hub of a sort of local community given that the reality of phone costs tended to keep a lot of the membership relatively local. (The larger BBS's also participated in various networks of discussion boards but they also had non-networked boards strictly for the "locals"--i.e. those who dialed in directly.)

There's now a documentary out about those days. I haven't seen it and haven't heard any reports, but if it's any good could be quite the nostalgia trip for some of us. I've thought of doing a book on some of the social communications history of the computer age but I haven't made any real progress on doing so.
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