This is a guest blog entry from Karin Gerber.

For a moment, imagine what things were like before the Internet the way we have it today.  People, products, and information are all available today at the click of a mouse, but there was a time not that long ago when none if this was available.

You see, before Facebook and MySpace, there were these Bulletin Board Systems (“BBS”) which were localized social networks that were much closer to home, simply because the users on them literally were a car, bus, or train ride away from you.  Chatting didn’t take place at blinding speeds like today… we did it by leaving messages on the board for each other, basically the same way as how current online forums work.  And if the BBS happened to have more than 2 active phone lines, you’d then be able to have a real-time chat with someone else.

How I remember the days of sitting in my room with my old Commodore 64 and 300 baud modem, watching the ASCII text scrolling across my television screen after connecting to my local BBS.  To me, that kind of stuff was amazing, no matter how “primitive” it sounds now, it was state of the art back then, true cutting edge in computer networking.  I used my computer and my phone line to call someone else’s computer to chat and exchange information!  We were in the technology age, baby!

Yes, looking back on it now, my Commodore 64 and 300 baud modem were indeed primitive, but it got me connected and introduced me to a whole new world outside of my room.  Back then, there was no such thing as “DSL” or “Cable” for us consumers, no Internet to connect online with.  Who knew that calling and conversing on Bulletin Board Systems would eventually be the start of what it has become now… the vast and ever growing Social Networking age.

Some examples of BBS’s were:  After Hours BBS  (which is still around today!), Rendezvous BBS, Innovations BBS, Apartment 2 BBS, and Spectrum BBS

These were the early social media darlings that I grew up with.  These BBS’s were the testing grounds for today’s online forums.  Everything you are used to doing today actually started there… file transfers, picture sharing, even things like online gaming first started on these BBS’s, but on a smaller and more personal level.

Back then, the distance was small and at times we were able to get together and meet in person.  In today’s era, we have a lot more contact with people all the way around the world, in different countries, and of different nationalities.  Even language is no longer a barrier with so many translation programs easily accessible on the web.

While the human touch may not be as prevalent anymore, we can still connect with so many different people in so many different locations.  And back then, when BBS’s were purely localized social entities, today’s social networking world includes everything and everyone.