How the Great Blizzard of 1978 in Chicago Led to the Development of the First Bulletin Board System (BBS)

In an informational episode of Off the Cuf, hosts Chris Parr and Harris Dirnberger consulted with computer historian, archivist, documentary filmmaker and longtime friend of Laughing Squid Jason Scott (BBS: The Documentary, Get Lamp) to learn more about the history of Bulletin Board Systems (BBS).

Scott explained how the development of BBSes originated with torrential snowstorms that landed on Chicago during the Great Blizzard of 1978. The city came to a complete standstill. Computer hobbyists Randy Suess and Ward Christensen took advantage of the forced downtime to sketch out the beginnings of what became the world’s first public system allowing people to communicate with each other between computers. While this system seems basic in 2020, it was the very first of its kind. Eventually, BBS paved the way toward far more modern technological systems but at the time, this remarkable system allowed people to talk to one another without high costs or geographical restraints.

So when you think about our relationship to computers especially now in the time of social media and mobile phones and GPS era where they’re always with us. All of these urges are now super served by things like the internet websites social media. Well, those urges to some extent lived in us throughout all of human history. You know having a groove, a friend, a tribe that you can depend on its always been there for us and what computer bulletin board systems did was it removed for the first time that geographic limitation …you know a lot of bulletin board history is making humans comfortable with talking to machines or through machine