BBS in the BIG APPLE

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Today, as we are in the Information Age and Virtual Era, the Internet reigns as the prime source of information exchange. However, before the Internet entered into our realm of basic day to day necessities, Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) were the predominantly used source for all information exchange during the 1980s up until the mid-1990s. People could use the platform to converse with fellow users and friends, upload pictures and videos, exchange files, and play online games – everything that we do are able to do today, except without the overly pixelated images and text and without low-speed connection. 

image source: https://infostory.com/2016/10/27/the-bulletin-board-system/

From 1991 to 1994, The ACD BBS found its place in many computers in the hustling and bustling city of New York City. One of the offices ACD BBS was used in was the Delta Air Lines office in New York City. And it seemed fitting to do so. Though there is not a lot of information about the ACD BBS, the culture and purpose of the bulletin board system was clear – to help workers in the firms get the job done. Users could dial in at 212-704-3094 to receive access to the system and complete their given tasks of the day. 

During this crucial Information Age when the computers were entering into the workplace, New Yorkers were not shy to new and unknown technology if it meant that work efficiency and productivity would increase. And, thus, BBS were being introduced in most computers in every single tall building of the Big Apple. In 1986, Melinda Greiner Guiles reported on Wall Street Journal how the National Cash Register (NCR) welcomed the new technology to their employees, “’Since we’re a high-tech company, we decided that a high-tech alternative would be a good solution’” (Guiles, Wall Street Journal). In the city of New York, it was clear that Bulletin Board Systems emerged with a clear identity and role – to increase communication amongst workers about what the next task is, what reports the executives made, and any big company announcements. 

“ ‘Half the 1,00 employees…can tap into the library at their desks and catch up on job postings and bulletin board announcements, update telephone-directory listings, review corporation procedures or organization charts and vote in a company opinion poll’ ” 

Melinda Greiner Guiles, Wall Street Journal, 1986

And with this, The ACD BBS joined the market as a helpful technological gadget. The Information Age emerged in the 1980s and the culture of it was clearly seen in the busy streets of New York City. And just as it was busy on the streets, it was even busier in doors where computers were at every single desk. You could imagine office scenes shown in The Wolf of Wall Street or The Pursuit of Happyness; excluding the dramatic storyline and explicit content, the scenes in the office where workers were screaming at each other, urgently punching data in the computers, and stacks of papers being thrown in the air all provide one interesting insight: the advancement of technology in the workplace increasing work efficiency, productivity, and work load in general. 

However, as white-collar workers and computer joined forces in the sky-high buildings of New York City during the beginnings of the Information Age, free speech and privacy rights on bulletin boards became a growing concern for high executives in big firms. 

This is where confidentiality of information became known to be crucial. In 1984, Andrew Pollack wrote an article in the New York Times detailing the arrest and questioning of Thomas G. Tcimpidis who had his bulletin board have a list uploaded credit card numbers that were obtain without authorization. As BBS became more and more integrated into daily work routines, employees and executives, alike, realized the weight of uploading information on the bulletin boards and the importance of knowing who, where, and when to share confidential company information. For Tcimpidis’s case, free speech was debated; law-enforcement were now having to deal with the emergence of information and content control and regulation on computers.

“ ‘It is unclear, for instance, whether electronic distributors are entitled to the same rights of free-speech – and subject to the same responsibilities for accuracy – as newspapers and magazine publishers’ ” 

Andrew Pollack, New York Times, 1984

The information and data collected and reviewed by officials in the heart of the city through the use of BBS was also able to be reached to other BBS users – this is what we call vital information exchange. In 1994, Peter H. Lewis reported in New York Times how a couple made use of BBS, “They visited various electronics bulletin board, and send and receive electronic mail, get stock market information, do most of their banking and read on the computer screen most of their once read in their daily newspapers” (Lewis, New York Times). However, Lewis emphasized this cyberspace offered a sense of community – which is a significant culture to BBS.

Lewis also emphasized that the cyberspace, where BBS lies, offered a sense of community – which is a significant culture to BBS. In the workplace, good and healthy community is often a vital need. People were able to identify their work community on a BBS. In order to get the tasks completed efficiently and well, workers must be able to communicate well what they expect of co-workers, any questions he/she had, and feedback on work. As BBS increased workload, work efficiency, and work productivity, it increased communication amongst people in the office as well. BBS was considered a staple for the job market at the time. It was used as a revolutionary networking and communication tool for workers and executives in all divisions of a single company. At the Delta Air Line’s New York City office, ACD BBS was used as a revolutionary networking and communication tool for workers and executives in all divisions of a single company.

Featured Image Source: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/01/modems-warez-and-ansi-art-remembering-bbs-life-at-2400bps/

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