Message Boards? What are they and what's the purpose of them?

I have no idea what a message board is and how they work? What's the idea and the purpose of them and what are some of the best ones? I should know this but I really don't. I've tried to look at a few but I just don't seem to fully understand them. Thanks for any help!! =)

5 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
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    A Bulletin board system, or BBS, is a computer system running software that allows users to dial into the system over a phone line (or Telnet) and, using a terminal program, perform functions such as downloading software and data, uploading data, reading news, and exchanging messages with other users.

    During their heyday (from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s), many BBSes were run as a hobby free of charge by the "SysOp" (system operator), while other BBSes charged their users a subscription fee for access, or were operated by a business as a means of supporting their customers. Still others were run by Internet service providers as part of their service to subscribers.

    The term BBS may also be used to refer to any online forum or message board.

    Bulletin board systems were in many ways a precursor to the modern form of the World Wide Web and other aspects of the Internet. BBSes were a highly social phenomenon and were used for meeting people and having discussions in message boards as well as for publishing articles, downloading software, playing games and many more things using a single application.

    The BBS was also a local phenomenon, as one had to dial into a BBS with a phone line and would have to pay additional long distance charges for a BBS out of the local area, as opposed to less expensive local charges. Thus, many users of a given BBS usually lived in the same area, and activities such as BBS Meets or Get Togethers (GTs or GTGs), where everyone from the board would gather and meet face to face, were common. As the use of the Internet became more widespread, BBSes slowly faded in popularity.


    A notable precursor to the public bulletin board system was Community Memory, started in 1972 in Berkeley, California, using hardwired terminals located in neighborhoods.

    Probably the first public bulletin board to go online in the United States was "Access-80"--a 1200-BPS system ran by Charles Oropallo (Reference Access-80 ran from Oropallo's basements first in Schenectedy, NY and then in Nashua, New Hampshire from 1977 until 1987. One original and unique feature--a precursor to today's Internet servers which can be used by multiple users simultaneously--was that Oropallo's BBS was able to connect several TRS-80 systems, each using separate phone lines, allowing for several people to access information on a common set of disk drives simultaneously. Access-80 contained menu-driven Special Interest Areas or "SIA's" on topics ranging from food to electronics. Another unique feature of Access-80 is that it was programmed using "BASIC"--a popular programming language during that period.

    Another early BBS was developed by Ward Christensen. According to an early interview, while he was snowed in during the Great Blizzard of 1978 in Chicago, Christensen began preliminary work on the Computerized Bulletin Board System, or CBBS.

    CBBS went online on February 16, 1978 in Chicago, Illinois. [1]

    With the original 110 and 300 baud modems of the late 1970s, BBSes were particularly slow, but speed improved with the introduction of 1200 bit/s modems in the early 1980s, and this led to a substantial increase in popularity. This was also the time when Apple-based BBSes were surpassed by DOS ones.

    Most of the information was presented using ordinary text or ANSI art, though some offered graphics, particularly after the rise in popularity of the GIF image format. Such use of graphics taxed available channel capacity, which in turn propelled demand for faster modems. Towards the early 1990s, the BBS industry became so popular that it spawned two monthly magazines, Boardwatch and BBS Magazine, which devoted extensive coverage of the software and technology innovations and people behind them, and listings to US and worldwide BBSes. In addition, a major monthly magazine, Computer Shopper, carried a list of BBSes along with a brief abstract of each of their offerings.

    Arguably the most profitable BBS was Event Horizons (1983-1995). According to Wired Magazine [2]and The Economist[3], Event Horizons BBS grossed more than $3 million in 1992. Event Horizons BBS was founded by Jim Maxey in Lake Oswego, Oregon. The BBS began as a message board but soon offered forums, mazes, puzzles, online games, and thousands of astronomy images. Later, Event Horizons BBS was one of the first to offer adult images and video clips for downloading to a huge customer base.

    With the rise of the World Wide Web around 1996, BBSes rapidly declined in popularity in the Western world, and were replaced by systems using the Internet for connectivity, rather than direct phone lines.

    Some remaining BBS systems connected directly to the Internet, removing the necessity of direct dial-up and consequently attracting a more geographically diverse user base. This also allowed email to pass between them, so that (for instance) a user on a FidoNet system could send and receive messages in the days when Internet access was limited.

    Public BBSes were often prone to abuse. It was not uncommon for BBSes (especially ones that did not use call back validation) to be flooded with rants full of profane language and insults.


    Before commercial Internet access became common, networks of BBSes provided regional and international e-mail and message bases. Some even provided gateways by which members could send/receive e-mail to/from the Internet. Elaborate schemes allowed users to download binary files, search gopherspace, and interact with distant programs, all using plain text e-mail. 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 and messages.

    The largest BBS network was FidoNet, which is still active today, though much smaller than it was in the 1990s. Many other BBS networks followed the example of Fidonet, using the same standards and the same software. They were called Fidonet Technology Networks (FTNs). They were usually smaller and targeted at selected audiences. Some BBSes were connected both to FidoNet and other FTNs, and as a user logged in, they would be taken to the appropriate part of the system. Some networks used QWK doors and other non Fido software and standards.

    Software and hardware

    Quantum Link main menu

    Quantum Link main menu

    Detailed ANSI artwork from 1994 called a "scroller" due to its length.

    Detailed ANSI artwork from 1994 called a "scroller" due to its length.

    The first BBSes ran on simple software, often written (or debugged) by the SysOp. By the mid-1980s, there were a number of free and shareware BBS programs, such as Fido, which offered various levels of features, ease of configuration, or capabilities. There were several successful commercial BBS programs, such as Wildcat, owned by Mustang, which were often (but not always) more feature-laden or dependable than the free programs. For SysOps using the Commodore 64, a popular commercial BBS package was Blue Board, sold from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Most Commodore 64 BBSes also included the option to use CASCII (commodore ASCII) which included various graphical symbols instead of letters to create artwork on the screen. One popular nationwide service which used that feature over 0.3 or 1.2 kbit/s modems was Quantum Link.

    Unlike modern websites that are typically hosted by third-party companies in commercial server installations, BBS computers (especially for smaller boards) typically operated from the SysOp's home, often in a bedroom or closet. As such, access could be unreliable, and in many cases only one user could be on the system at a time. Those few BBSs with multiple phone lines and either multitasking software or a LAN connecting multiple computers, could have multiple simultaneous users.

    By the late 1980s, the majority of BBSs ran on DOS, due to the overwhelming popularity of DOS-based IBM-compatible computers, but remained text-based, rather than using the Graphical User Interface (GUI) design that became familiar on the World Wide Web in the early 1990s. A BBS GUI called Remote Imaging Protocol was promoted in the middle 1990s but did not become widespread. One of the flaws of this (and other) vector-based protocols was the very slow drawing time when streaming across the 2.4 kbit/s modems of the day (each image could require between 1 or 2 minutes to draw).

    A more popular form of online graphics was ANSI art which operated similar to Commodore 64 CASCII: replacing letters with blocks, changing colors on demand, or even including sound. During the late 80s and early 90s, several BBSes used ANSI to make elaborate welcome screens, and to make the overall experience more pleasant for the user.

    By the early 1990s BBSes run on the Commodore Amiga had become increasingly popular. External hard drives for the Amiga 500 and the PC-like Amiga 2000, Amiga 3000 and Amiga 4000 with build-in hard drives turned the game and music home computer into 24/7 BBSs around the world. Popular BBS software for the Amiga were Amiexpress, Infinity and Tempest.

    Today most of the remaining BBSes have evolved to include Internet hosting capabilities such as Synchronet and Wildcat! BBS using the Telnet protocol rather than dialup, either by using BBS software designed to support Telnet or by using a FOSSIL to telnet redirector.

    Content and access

    Some general purpose bulletin board systems had special levels of access that were given to those who paid extra money or knew the sysop personally. Some of these BBSes that charged money usually had something special to offer their users such as door games, a large user base, or pornography or internet access.

    Pay BBSes such as The WELL and Echo NYC (now Internet forums rather than dial-up), ExecPC,and MindVox (which folded in 1996) were admired for their tightly-knit communities and quality discussion forums. However some "free" BBSes maintained close knit communities and some even had annual or bi-annual events where users would travel great distances to meet face-to-face with their on-line friends.

    Some BBSes, called "elite boards" or "WaReZ boards", were exclusively used for distributing illegally copied software. These BBSes often had multiple modems and phone lines, allowing several users to upload and download files at once. Most elite BBSes used some form of new user verification, where new users would have to apply for membership and attempt to prove that they weren't a law enforcement officer or a lamer. The largest elite boards accepted users by invitation only.

    BBSing survives as a niche hobby for those who enjoy running BBSes and those users who remember BBSing as an enjoyable pastime. Most BBSs are now accessible over telnet and typically offer free email accounts, web interfaces, ftp services, IRC chat and all of the protocols commonly used on the Internet.

    Some BBSes are Web-enabled and have a Web-based user interface, allowing people who have never used a BBS before to use one easily via their favorite web browser. For those more nostalgic for the true BBS experience, one can use DOSBox running on a PC and to redirect COM port communications to telnet, allowing them to connect to Telnet BBSes using 1980s and 1990s era modem terminal emulation software, like mtelnet, Telix, Terminate, Qmodem and Procomm Plus, and SyncTERM.

    The website serves as a collection point of historical data involving the history of the BBS. The owner of this site produced BBS: The Documentary, a program on DVD that features interviews with well-known people (mostly from the United States) from the "hey-day BBS" era.


    Much of the "Shareware" movement was started via sharing software through BBSes. A notable example was Phil Katz's PKARC (and later PKZIP, using the same ".zip" algorithm that WinZip and other popular archivers now use); also other concepts of software distribution like freeware, postcardware like JPEGview and donationware like Red Ryder (software) for Macintoshes. appeared on BBS sites. Doom from id Software and many Apogee games were distributed as shareware.

    Many commercial BBS software companies that continue to support their old BBS software products switched to the shareware model or made it entirely free. Some companies were able to make the move to the Internet and provide commercial products with BBS capabilities.


    A classic BBS had:

    * A computer

    * One or more modems

    * One or more phone lines

    * A BBS software package

    * A sysop - system operator

    * Most modern BBSes allow telnet access over the Internet using a telnet server and a virtual FOSSIL driver.

    The BBS software usually provides:

    * Login screen

    * Welcome screen

    * One or more message bases

    * File areas

    * Voting Booths

    * Tag Boards (one-liners)

    * Statistics on Message Posters, Top Uploaders / Downloaders

    * Online games (usually single player or only a single active player at a given time)

    * A doorway to third-party online games

    * Usage auditing capabilities

    * Multi-user chat (more common in later multi-line or telnettable BBSes)

    * Internet email (more common in later Internet-connected BBSes)

    * Networked message boards setup by the SysOp

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  • 4 years ago

    Don't laugh at me but this is what I think of it. 1. The note book starts about being creative stating that today everything is copied and if they try to be original someone ruins it, hence why the ink ruined the clown drawing. She then tried to ask about the clouds so that they imagined something, even if it was just a silly cloud. 2. She asks for their favorite color, one replies green, she tries to state green is not a creative color,he reason, I am sure it is because green is a seccondary color, so if you tried mixing it with another seccondary color(purple, oange, pink, grey) it would make nothing but brown, she wanted a primary color (Red, Yellow, Blue,white black) because you can mix them and they make a new color. 3. Things turn dark as they become more creative, soon they had became insane stating that maybe being too creative wasn't a good thing, and that if you become too creative you will become darkly twisted. Which they did, sthey paid the price of being creative to the point that death was the only thing to stop the cycle. 4. The notepad seeing the darkness of becoming creative says that they shouldn't be creative again, trying to stop the problems of the future and trying to save them from going crazy in their own minds. Soon she closed elf up from the world ending the video.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    They are basically websites where people go to chat about stuff that they have in common with others. In a Y/A acts as a forum or a message board site.

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  • 4 years ago

    message boards purpose

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  • 1 decade ago

    HOWDY!!! Dave B,

    I'm with you Dave doesn't make sense to me either. I don't know for sure if the 1st answer is right or not. I guess we are stuck till they pull us out of the ditch.

    STAY SAFE!!!


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