Before the internet came out in 1991 and became so popular for it’s abilities to keep people connected, there were bulletin board systems. Commonly known as BBS for short, it worked similarly to the internet as it allowed users to communicate, connect with others, and download and upload different information. It also allowed users to play online games, giving users a new way to compete and connect with one another. Bulletin board systems provided a convenient way to connect to others in other cities and states, universalizing our communication a little more. To be able to access the free (most of the time) social platform all one needed was a personal computer, and a modem to connect it to a telephone line. BBS’s were most commonly used locally, because costs to send information long distances were more expensive. There were a ton of BBS made and used for different purposes and people. The BBS we will go deeper into is called “The Cave”.
The Cave was a bulletin board system that was based out of Raleigh, North Carolina. The BBS was created in 1992 by Benj Edwards, and at 11 years old he was the youngest BBS creator ever. Benj Edwards’ bulletin board system allowed users to play online games, message others, and upload files. “The Cave” had around 1,000 users and clocked in about 10,000 phone calls at its peak. Bulletin Board systems in 1992 were near the peak of their craze, as stated by Jack Ricard in a New York Times article, “there are nearly 60,000 public access bulletin boards in the United States”. Jack Ricard exposes the fact that BBS’s around the year 1992, were being created in mass numbers to keep up with the increased users throughout the United States. According to a New York Times article pertaining to BBS’s, “prices of personal computers and high-speed modems have fallen drastically. But the real force seems to be that people are inherently curious and sociable.”, explaining the surge in the use of BBS’s.
“The Cave” was a unique bulletin board, considering it’s diversity within the BBS it could appeal to multiple audiences. The users could utilize “The Cave” to socialize through the messaging section allowing users to send messages and information from their living room. The BBS also appealed to people interested in gaming. In the article pertaining to BBS’s online games feature, Benj Edwards explains the diversity of “The Cave” selection of games, “It’s a great place to run classic MS-DOS door games like TradeWars 2002, Legend of the Red Dragon, Operation OverKill: II, Global War, and others.”(Edwards) “The Cave” was a hub to many popular games, this gave people a different form of entertainment through the use of their computers. The quantity of good games within “The Cave” was a huge appeal to many users as stated in a local North Carolina newspaper, “On-line games are the biggest thing that’s hit Greensboro, because it’s multiuser,”. The online gaming within the BBS gave users a way to connect with one another by playing the online games with up to four other people. Many were excited to begin using the BBS online games to connect to others and this appealed to many people and made others curious as well.
Bulletin board systems were nearly never profitable, yet thousands of people throughout the United States still created them. According to the newspaper article “Welcome to the Virtual Neighborhood”, it explained “On a BBS, you’re mainly dealing with local folks. It seems more warm.”. The people making the bulletin board systems were mainly after the effect of bringing together communities and making information passing painless and quicker. A local out of Reidsville states, “I can’t get out, so I have a way of communicating” giving him the feeling that it acts as somewhat of a “virtual town square”. The BBS’s could allow users to send messages and information to people far away but often came with a price, and many didn’t feel it was necessary to communicate with others that were far away. In “Welcome to the Virtual Neighborhood” the newspaper article states, “some people prefer them because they’d rather be talking to someone across town than someone across the country.”.
Bulletin board systems were a huge technological advancement in the way people can communicate and share information virtually. Without this step in history who knows what the internet may have looked like. “The Cave” gave the people of the United States, but more importantly North Carolina a platform to share ideas, play online games, and to share files. As BBS’s were once the craze, the internet had no problem turning BBS’s invisible.