Some of us who have been “online” since the early days will remember the Bulletin Board Services, also known by the acronym of BBS. In the 1980s, we had to connect to each BBS, one at a time, using what we considered breakneck speeds of the 1200 or 2400 baud dial-up modems; 4800 and 9600 baud modems were staggeringly fast! We eagerly sought local access telephone numbers so as not to incur expensive long distance charges. There were a few genealogy BBSes maintained by hobbyists whom we referred to as sysops (system operators). We would connect our modem with our computer and then plug into the telephone line. The modem would dial the access number, the modems at both ends would squeal in multiple tones as they synchronized their communications, and then the session would (hopefully) begin.
The earliest BBSes in the 1980s were text-based services. There was a menu at the BBS, and the contents varied, depending on the interest of the sysop. Genealogical researchers posted messages on a “message board” or “bulletin board.” These early “genealogy forums” were governed by a set of individuals, commonly referred to as administrators and moderators, and these people were responsible for the forums' conception, technical maintenance and policies. Most forums had a list of rules detailing the focus of the forum and guidelines for participating in the forum. There was also usually a section of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) containing basic information for new users/members and people not yet familiar with the use and rules of an online forum.
By the early 1990s, the Internet had provided an interconnected communications system that allowed us to make a single connection and then “surf” from site to site without disconnecting and reconnecting. Early services that provided genealogists with specific forums were GEnie, Prodigy, CompuServe, Delphi, and America Online. As technology and the Internet evolved, new websites specifically geared to genealogy were established, and the message boards that previously existed only on BBSes were founded on some of these new services. Over time, we began posting messages on message boards and on mailing lists, hoping to connect with other researchers who were working on the same family lines that we were investigating.
Fast Forward to Today
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