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Swedish BBS - computer networking before the internet

Before the web, there are electronic bulletin boards. Using your phone line and a modem, you dial a number and connect to another computer. There, you can communicate with other people who have called up the same computer.

Legend of the Red Dragon was released in 1989 and was one of the most popular games on Bulletine Board Systems. To the right: Screenshot from DOSCIM which was used for CompuServe, the first commercial American online service.

Listings of BBS phone numbers were published in computing magazines. Sometimes, these would include restrictions, such as the system only being accessible at night (probably because the same phone number was used for voice communications during the day). Photo: http://bit.ly/1eaJxUp

A simple way to describe a BBS (Bulletin Board System) is as a community where you can hold discussions with other people, send internal messages and download files.

There are certainly no photos in this early type of networking, but with the help of ANSI graphics (similar to teletext) images are still quite impressive.

The first ever BBS is called CBBS (computerized bulletin board system), based in Chicago, and goes online in 1978. As more and more people get their own home computers (especially Commodore Amiga) and modems, the number of systems in Sweden increase during the 80's.

ABC-klubben starts a BBS

In 1980 ABC-klubben, the computer club at the Royal Academy of Science (KTH), launches a BBS. ABC-klubben's BBS is the first Swedish non-profit forum that can be reached over a modem connection.

Fidonet connects the world

In the 80's and up to the breakthrough of the World Wide Web, there are a number of important BBS hubs for communication, such as Permobas, QZ-Kom, TP44 and Computext. There are also hundreds more started by Swedish citizens, many of them connected to the global network FidoNet. For many users, these electronic systems are a way to meet people from other parts of the country - even the world.

These systems call each other's modems in an automated, intricate hierarchical system to send messages back and forth. This way, an electronic message can travel from one BBS to another anywhere in the network. However, it could take days or even weeks before the message reaches its destination. It all depends on how many "jumps" the message needs to take before finally arriving.

The BBS law

BBS' also generate a Swedish law called "BBS-lagen", or The BBS Law. This law, regarding responsibility for content in electronic bulletin boards, is created after a journalist is accused of being a KGB agent in a Swedish BBS. The poster is sentenced to pay a fine, but at the same time a new law is created to regulate who is responsible for content written in online forums. This law stipulates, among other things, that the person in charge of an online forum must monitor the content regularly.

See the Internet museum's film about BBS

In 2017 we produced a short film about the Swedish BBS scene together with filmmaker Simon Klose. In Swedish only.

Another film, in English: BBS – the documentary