For centuries, a bulletin board referred to only that – actual outdoor message boards where one could physically affix a message to be read or taken by a passerby. But for a brief time at the turn of the century, bulletin boards meant something else entirely: a computer system that other computers could log in to, read and post messages pre-World Wide Web.
The earliest form of the Bulletin Board System (or BBS) was invented in 1973 in Berkeley, California, using hardwired terminals that allowed users to read and post public messages. In 1978, two programmers developed the first public dial-up BBS, which they called the Computerized Bulletin Board System. Using a modem and a phone line, users could now connect to the CBBS and leave and receive messages remotely.
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, bulletin boards became more common and complex. They often featured graphic log-in screens, private messaging in addition to public posting and file transfers, all of which led to the need for faster modems. By the ’90s, the most widespread use of the BBS, some systems were even employing dynamic page designs, customizing menu systems for each individual user.
At the height of their popularity, however, the BBS was quickly cut down in its prime. The advent of the World Wide Web, and its ease of use, quickly overcame the cumbersome dial-up BBS, eventually being replaced by the Internet Forum which is itself being superseded by social media. Today, bulletin boards again refer only to the outdoor bulletin board.