Bulletin Board System (BBS)

Before the Internet was a widespread phenomenon, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s, people built their own elaborate local social networks based on Personal Computers (PCs), modems, and land-line telephone lines.  Together, these systems made up the Bulletin Board System or "BBS" culture around the world.

Some estimates put the number of U.S.-based BBSes in 1994 at 60,000 and the number of BBS users at 17 million.

Teenagers, adults, and even some commercial entities would provide a BBS for others to use by purchasing a dedicated phone line from the telephone company to connect a dedicated PC running "BBS software" and a modem to the public telephone system.  They would then typically publish the telephone number for their BBS in a number of local "BBS directories."  (Of course there were also "underground" BBSes that didn't tend to publish their telephone numbers, but that's a whole other story.)

Typical services provided by BBSes included message forums, file upload/download areas, and on-line games.  Because of the technology of the era, BBSes were almost exclusively text-only experiences.

The downsides of BBS technology when compared to today's high-speed, global, shiny Internet are obvious: an inability to share images, sound, or videos; limited reach versus global connectivity; and a less "polished" experience than what modern web sites and "apps" provide.

The upsides of BBS technology might not be as obvious, but they are real: decentralized citizen-owned networks versus an Internet that has become largely centralized around a handful of major corporations (Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc); an ability to communicate without needing to pay for services from companies such as Verizon, AT&T, and Cox; and restoring locality to our communications.

Today, we could take back part of our own networking with a resurgence of a BBS-like culture.  Sure, it would be much less sexy than what Silicon Valley provides us with, but it would also not be a corporate surveillance state and its existence would not be at the whim of a small number of gigantic corporations.  With WaveShark, it likely wouldn't even host photos and it certainly would not host videos or even allow voice streaming.  But it would be yours.  It would be local.  It could be very intimate.  It could be bespoke, so much different from the blandness that the modern Internet has become.

Our vision is one of communities with a number of individuals permanently connecting their WaveSharks to dedicated computers or Raspberry Pis and providing unique, local, citizen-owned social networking-like experiences.  Building a local Twitter knock-off is much, much easier than you might think.  Building a basic "wall" of local social activity and of local's thoughts and feelings, somewhat akin to what Facebook offers, would not be that difficult either.