the bbs

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can get on with the real issue of using the computer as a discussion forum. There are many different ways of using the computer for group discussion (as I find group discussion much more interesting than one-on-one communications). I was first introduced to these communities online by way of BBS's in the days before I even knew about the internet.

The BBS that I most often logged into carried message networks which pulled feeds from across the country. The messages would be batched nightly, or perhaps a couple of times a day, if we were lucky, and would be sent out to be read and replied to by other users on other systems in other parts of the country. There was a bit of a delay with these messages, but this was expected, and was, in fact, one of the reasons why this form of communication worked so well. Because the responses were fairly delayed, we were given the opportunity to think about responses, to come up with something interesting to say, and then to proof what we had said before actually sending it out.

By allowing these messages to pass outside the confines of time, we were able to ignore the fact that these discussions were taking place between people who were not physically near each other and allowed us to concentrate merely on the words that were being said. Words would be sent out, time would pass, words would come back in. These discussions would take place when we wanted to take part in them, and never else.