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Bulletin board system (BBS) is a computer and associated software which typically provides an electronic message database where people can log in and leave messages. Messages are typically split into topic groups similar to the newsgroups on Usenet (which is like a distributed BBS). Any user may submit or read any message in these public areas.[1]


Apart from public message areas, some BBSes provided archives of files, personal electronic mail, and other services of interest, managed by a system operator (sysop).[1]


The term comes from physical pieces of corkboard on which people traditionally pinned messages written on paper for informational exchange - a "physical bulletin board". Ward Christensen, the programmer and operator of the first BBS (which went online on February 16, 1978) called it a CBBS for "computer bulletin board system". Since the rise of the World Wide Web, the term has become antiquated, though the concept has remained popular, with many websites featuring discussion areas where users can post messages for public consumption.

Thousands of BBSes around the world were run from amateurs' homes, each running on a single modem line typically connected to a MS-DOS PC, though many were also run from Macs and Apple II series computers. Although BBSes were traditionally the domain of hobbyists, many connected directly to the Internet (accessed via telnet), others were operated by government, educational, and research institutions.[1] Apple Computer's internal BBS, AppleLink, played a part in the rise of America Online as the largest dial-up online service provider in the 1990s.[2]


Fans of Usenet or the big commercial time-sharing bboards such as CompuServe, CIX and GEnie tended to consider local BBSes the lower rung of the hacker culture, but they helped connect hackers and microcomputer hobbyists and let them exchange code. Confusing this term for a Usenet newsgroup generally marked one either as a newbie fresh in from the BBS world or as a real old-timer predating Usenet.[1]


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