> I cant use that information as an academic reference. ... this place is full of smart, educated people.
Flatter us if you must, but your prof still won't take our word. And shouldn't. At least one fact I give below conflicts with recorded history. We were too busy doing it to keep notes, we didn't like to remember one year how awful it was a few years before, the world moved fast.
> the time the internet started becoming commenly avaliable
Before Internet, before ARPAnet, a few universities and military sites had point-to-point or dial-up links. And these were used for "communication".
Dave in New Jersey would sit at a paper-terminal with a rubber-cup 110 baud modem and dial a university in Boston. After some fumbling, his terminal would be cross-connected with Melanie's terminal in Boston. The lines were leased for academic research, no direct charge to the users. Unless some computer-student came in and demanded use of terminal or line, Dave and Melanie could "talk" all night. Later they met in person, and are still married.
email existed, though perhaps at the level of file drop-box rather than a full email protocol. Of course one message may be sent to multiple recipients easily. Not mailing-lists as we know them now, but perhaps a script to copy a file to multiple user folders.
All this gained impetus as ARPA then Internet brought more folks online. While military used the same lines, most of the notorious stuff came out of universities. netnews was/is a system for distributing "news" which grew to include everything people talk about. More efficient than mail-lists: a news-item came to a news-server where anybody on campus could read it.
Outside the military and university, we had to pay for our own wires.
As riggler says, normal people used BBSes. See "CBBS", often considered the pioneer. Ward left his computer and shiny new modem in auto-answer mode. You called, it connected, you could read or leave messages on his 8" floppy disk. BBS systems grew quite popular. Many charged for access. There was enough money in it to drive modem development and marketing: several models of modem were widely discounted to BBS operators just to grow the market for BBS user modems. Advanced ones were well organized, and instead of reading while connected, you asked for a "chunk" which was ZIPped-up, downloaded, and read off-line with a message reader. You paid for the phone-call, so you preferred local BBSes. But BBS messages passed through ad-hoc long-distance networks, could cross the USA in a few days mostly by automated BBS-BBS transfers late at night.
Look into the history of CompuServe. The original plan was to offer computer time for insurance companies too small to own a computer. For $24/hour you could connect to a mainframe in Ohio, store data, run programs, and for additional fees run print-outs and even mail bills to customers. It was a full TOPS-10 operating system. Many programmers did work for their clients, and also for themselves, sometimes just for fun. Russ Ranshaw did a lot of programming on CIS salary, B-protocol, pioneering "forums", a game, lots of nick-knacks. A particular feature of CIS is that, while their servers were in Ohio, they had modem-banks in all major cities and then in most large towns (often in the H&R Block office) so users could usually connect with a local call, which was often free from the phone company. You did pay $24/hour (later falling to $12, $5, and finally $3 when they fired Russ) but anybody in the US was "in the same place". If we were not in the same time, we used email and forums. Forums ran in "teletype" mode: you issued commands like "GO IBMHW" and "READ #1234" and message 1234 on PCHW forum was written to your text monitor (and many users still had Type 33 Teletype machines). Reading online was costly (there were stories of $3,000 bills); a couple PC programmers developed off-line readers to suck and store messages as fast as possible, read and reply off-line, then connect to post replies. CIS got fancy later (in part to discourage offline readers), with a GUI interface and cascading messages; then a vBulletin web-forum littered with ads. http://www.raphkoster.com/gaming/mudtimeline.shtmlhttp://billlouden.blogspot.com/ http://www.atarimagazines.com/compute/issue41/telegames.php
You will surely want this book: On the Way to the Web
ISBN 978-1-4302-0869-3 $22.99 list
This seems to be your paper, pre-written.
> political communication
Maybe I missed it, but IMHO there was not a dominant "political communication" until well after "Al Gore invented the internet". Yes, USENET had religion and politics, and CIS had quasi-official DEMOC(rat) and REPUB(lican) forums with lively discussion. But nothing like what the open public Web has brought us, with unfettered hate speech and million-reader blogs.