Bulletin Board System

Definition of Bulletin Board System

A Bulletin Board System (BBS) is an early form of online communication platform, popular from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, where users could connect via phone lines and modems to exchange messages, access news, and share files. These systems allowed for the formation of online communities, with each BBS typically hosting a variety of chat rooms, forums, and digital content. The internet’s widespread adoption eventually replaced BBSs, giving rise to modern social media and online forums.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Bulletin Board System” is:BUL – eh – tinb -ʌ – l – ɪ – t – ɪ – nBOARDb – o – r – dSYSTEMs – i – s – t – ə – m

Key Takeaways

  1. Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) were the predecessors of modern internet forums and social media platforms, allowing users to exchange messages and share files.
  2. Established in the late 1970s and gaining popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, BBSs operated using computer servers and modems to connect users over telephone lines.
  3. While most BBSs were replaced by internet services, a dedicated community still maintains several systems today, preserving the culture and history of early online communication.

Importance of Bulletin Board System

The term Bulletin Board System (BBS) is important because it represents a significant milestone in the early development of internet communication, social interaction, and information sharing.

BBS originated in the late 1970s and peaked in the early 1990s, functioning as electronic message boards where users connected to the system using a modem, posted messages, exchanged files, and participated in online discussions.

This pioneering concept enabled computer enthusiasts, hobbyists, and professionals to form online communities and laid the groundwork for modern social media, forums, and chat applications.

As one of the first instances of widespread digital networking, BBS played a crucial role in shaping how the internet has come to be used today for work, entertainment, and interpersonal connection.


The Bulletin Board System (BBS) served a significant purpose during the pre-internet era of digital communication, providing a platform for users to engage with each other and access resources. As the precursor to modern forums and online communities, the purpose of BBS was to foster interaction and information exchange between users through the posting of messages, sections called “boards,” where others could read and respond.

This type of system enabled discussions, file sharing, and even online gaming, all of which helped shape the digital world we know today. Additionally, BBS allowed users to download software and other digital materials, acting as a hub for digital resources.

Aside from being a forerunner to contemporary social media, the Bulletin Board System was a tool that facilitated learning and collaboration among users with similar interests. BBS platforms significantly contributed to the growth of various hobbyist and enthusiast communities, as well as providing support networks for those in need.

In this context, BBS platforms operated as an essential communication tool that connected individuals isolated by geographical boundaries. Despite the advent of the internet leading to the decline of BBS usage, its legacy remains evident in the ongoing evolution of digital communication and online communities.

Examples of Bulletin Board System

FidoNet (1984): Created by Tom Jennings, FidoNet was a widely-used bulletin board system (BBS) network that connected various BBS systems together. It enabled users from multiple BBS communities to exchange public and private messages, share files, and discuss topics. At its peak in the 1990s, FidoNet connected over 39,000 systems across the world and had a strong user base from North America, Europe, and Asia.

WWIV (1986): Developed originally by Wayne Bell, WWIV was a popular DOS-based BBS software package that gained significant popularity among BBS enthusiasts. WWIV enabled users to connect to a BBS using a modem and access message boards, email, and file sharing services. WWIV also pioneered the creation of WWIVnet, which linked WWIV BBS systems together, allowing users to exchange messages and content across various platforms.

The WELL (1985): Short for “Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link,” The WELL was an influential online community and BBS platform that connected individuals with shared interests in topics like technology, science, and culture. Founded by Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant, The WELL had a massive impact on the early days of the internet and online community building, serving as the inspiration for future online forums and social media platforms. Notable users of The WELL included Steve Jobs and members of the Grateful Dead. The WELL was known for its vibrant community discussions and is still operational as an online community today.

Frequently Asked Questions – Bulletin Board System

1. What is a Bulletin Board System (BBS)?

A Bulletin Board System (BBS) is an online platform where users can connect, share messages, discuss topics, and exchange files. Originally, BBS was accessed via a dial-up modem and provided a rudimentary text-based interface for users to interact with each other.

2. When were Bulletin Board Systems popular?

BBSs rose to popularity in the 1980s and early 1990s, pre-dating modern internet forums and social media platforms. As internet access became more affordable and widespread, BBSs gradually declined in popularity in favor of newer technologies.

3. How did users access Bulletin Board Systems?

Users accessed BBSs using a computer, a modem, and a phone line. They would dial the BBS’s phone number to establish a connection and interact with the platform using either a dedicated BBS client or terminal emulation software.

4. What services were offered on a Bulletin Board System?

Services offered on BBSs included online games, discussion forums, file repositories, and email systems. Users could also engage in real-time chat, access news articles, and participate in polls or voting.

5. Are Bulletin Board Systems still in use today?

While BBSs have significantly declined in popularity, some niche communities still maintain active BBSs, primarily accessible via the internet rather than a traditional phone line. These boards have evolved to incorporate modern features and technologies while still maintaining their traditional BBS atmosphere.

Related Technology Terms

  • Modem
  • Dial-up Connection
  • Text-based Interface
  • Online Communities
  • File Sharing

Sources for More Information


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