A BBS is a personal computer, not necessarily and expensive one, running inexpensive BBS software, plugged into an ordinary telephone via a modem. Attach a modem to your computer, plug the modem into your telephone, create a name for your BBS, post the telephone number on a few existing BBSs, and you are in the virtual community business. People call your BBS number and leave private messages or public information(p.132).Howard Rheingold, 1993, "The Virtual Community"
Increasingly, the BBSs are linked to the Internet via gateways, but, by their nature, they are not dependent on the Internet. They can run on the telephone system.
In 1977, Ward Christiansen created and released in the public domain a microcomputer program called MODEM. It allowed two microcomputers in different locations to use a telephone line to exchange files.
In 1978, Keith Peterson and Ward Christiansen released a new version of the software that could perform error correction. They called this new microcomputer file transfer protocol XMODEM.
In 1978 Christiansen and Suess created Computer Bulletin Board System (CBBS). It enabled users to read and write messages to and from other users, like on a standard bulletin board.
In 1983, Tom Jennings wrote a BBS program called Fido and began running a Bulletin Board - Fido BBS # 1. As the program spread, a whole network of Fido BBSs emerged which used telephone lines to connect to each other and exchange information.
The National Fido Hour - between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. Fido BBSs call each other and exchange data to make use of the cheap telephone rates. Currently, FidoNet is connected to the Internet via a gateway and while local BBSs exchange information using the telephone lines, long distance exchange is carried out over the Internet.