ExecPC Bulletin Board System
Bulletin Board Systems came out in the late 1900’s and were considered to be the internet-before-the-internet. People could communicate via telephone lines through public-access bulletin-board services, and by sending messages, pictures, and files through the BBS computer software. They were first created as a convenient way to talk to friends without having to get together in person. The first BBS made was in 1978 and was in response to a blizzard in Chicago which prohibited a computer club from meeting, so Ward Christensen and Randy Suess decided to create a bulletin board system so the club could still keep in touch. They created the CBBS software which allowed computer and modem-owning individuals to dial in and leave messages for others to see and respond to. From here, the BBS concept grew like wildfire and allowed for people all over the country to revolutionarily communicate via computers (mainly locally before long-distance became available for free). These systems were described as digital push-pin bulletin boards meant for people to be able to access from their own homes. Since BBS’s were the first means of chatting that were not through speech or other in-person mediums, it was controversial to be able to send messages to others online. Editor-in-chief of Vintage Computing and Gaming, Benj Edwards, said that “long before texting and Slacking and Facebook messaging became the norm for interchange, BBS chats felt like being with someone in person”. Many systems still exist today through Telnet and other services where people can reminisce and play various door games.
Launched on November 28, 1983, Bob Mahoney released a bulletin board system called ExecPC. This platform was one of the earlier BBS’s invented and its primary focus was on information sharing. It had one of the most lines out of all existing systems with over two hundred thirty to communicate through. In order to launch his BBS, he used an exceptionally large commercial hard drive so that he could start up RBBS software and a single telephone line. After doing this, he had to increase his supply of telephone lines to be able to keep up with demand, and nearly went bankrupt over the next year trying to accommodate. Because there was no technology released in the 80’s that had effective multiuser software, Mahoney had to write up the software himself and perfect it to meet the needs of the consumer. Over the next ten years, he had to move his production to an office space and acquired nearly thirty thousand regular callers across over two hundred phone lines. eSoft chair Philip Becker states, “[Mahoney] became, without question, the biggest computer BBS for a number of years”. Below is a picture of Bob Mahoney with his software he built (artifacts.textfiles.com)
In 1994, following his decade of success, Mahoney decided to get into the internet service provider business which upped his expenses. He had an outgoing expense log of over two million dollars after he was forced to purchase over five thousand modems to service his customers. Then, after seventy-eight hundred modems, thirty routers, one hundred servers, two T3 lines, and two-hundred fifty T1 lines, Mahoney realized that a strong regional ISP would be needed simply to keep the business up and running. The company had been charging fifty dollars per month per webpage (and ExecPC owned hundreds) and they decided it was necessary to cut costs while also increasing service. Mahoney came up with a long-term plan aimed to lower expenses which involved holding off on raises for a while. We can see now that this plan was successful and we can still use ExecPC to communicate today.
In Buffalo, New York, where ExecPC was founded, there were many social injustices between Caucasians and African-Americans. Newspapers from this time period and around this location heavily focused on the accomplishments of black people in an effort to neutralize tensions. A 1984 article from the New York Times give us a glimpse into what an article then looks like. It had stated, “improvement in the economy [is] the key reason for the shift in blacks’ attitudes about the future”. This article covered economic development as something that could decrease segregation. In another article from the New York Times as cited below talks about desegregation fights between state school officials and the NAACP. Considering all of this news about racism in America, Bob Mahoney could have released ExecPC as a way to lift spirits and direct attention towards an integrated future. This BBS was an outlet from real world issues where one could focus on themselves without the societal pressure of racial injustice.
Clymer, A. (1984, ). AMERICA LOOKS TO FUTURE IN HOPE, POLL FINDS. New York Times Retrieved from http://proxy.library.jhu.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/docview/424862317?accountid=11752
UPI. (1983, ). AROUND THE NATION; san francisco settles integration dispute. New York Times Retrieved from http://proxy.library.jhu.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/docview/424542032?accountid=11752
Richtel, Matt. “Bit Players.” Wired, Conde Nast, 5 June 2017, www.wired.com/1998/08/es-access/?pg=1.
Edwards, Benj. “The Lost Civilization of Dial-Up Bulletin Board Systems.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 4 Nov. 2016, www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/11/the-lost-civilization-of-dial-up-bulletin-board-systems/506465/.
Berck, Judith. “All About/Electronic Bulletin Boards; It’s No Longer Just Techno-Hobbyists Who Meet by Modem.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 July 1992, www.nytimes.com/1992/07/19/business/all-about-electronic-bulletin-boards-it-s-no-longer-just-techno-hobbyists-who.html.
Exec-PC was founded in a suburb of Milwaukee. I know because my ex-husband was good friends with Bob, and I saw his entire basement full of equipment. It was sold to a company in upstate New York, but it was founded in Wisconsin.