help with internet communication timeline.
« on: April 12, 2010, 04:46:18 AM »

Im working on a Ph.d-application on political communication, and I need to create a timeline of a sort for internet communications. I can find some wikipedia stuff, but I cant use that information as an academic reference.

Im just trying my luck here, because this place is full of smart, educated people.

Also, I would like to know what forums like this one is actually called? PhPBB-style forums!?

I mainly need the time the internet started becoming commenly avaliable, and the time forums started popping up. Im not old enough to remember the mass-mail type forum-communication (usenet groups?), but Id like a year for the emergence of those as well - with some kinda reference.

« Last Edit: April 12, 2010, 04:51:26 AM by Gustav »


Re: help with internet communication timeline.
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2010, 03:53:11 PM »
Also, I would like to know what forums like this one is actually called? PhPBB-style forums!?

BBS stands for Bulletin Board system. BBS's started out as dialup modem only systems. The host of the BBS would give out a phone number and you could dial directly in. This was all text based.

As the internet grew, these BBS's either died or became websites. PHP is a web programming language (Pre Hypertext Processor), and like ASP (Active Server Pages from Microsoft) and others, enables a web server to interact with things like server files and databases.

PHPBB is a web application written for PHP that enables Bulletin Board style communication between users. You can find the PHPBB history on it's webpage. It normally uses a MySQL database on the server to house information.

Hope this helps. I can remember around 1991-1992 getting into dialup and first getting online. Using the Lynx web browser (text-based) through Telnet or Kermit sessions. That was really the infancy I would say, maybe a year or two earlier, as far as commonly available.
Why does it happen? Because it happens - Roll the bones...


Re: help with internet communication timeline.
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2010, 09:14:05 PM »
Were you looking at the History of The Internet page on Wikipedia?  It's full of references that must be legitimate enough for citation.  This one looks useful:


Re: help with internet communication timeline.
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2010, 01:38:26 AM »
> 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".

Circa 1972:

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.

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.

Re: help with internet communication timeline.
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2010, 02:11:26 AM »
Thanks a lot for the answers. Its only for a small paragraph of the application, but its pretty important nonetheless.

Im not doing a paper on the history of political, digital communication. I am putting together a research design that explores the (possible) structural changes in politicical communication that social networking has introduced. Mainly Ill be focusing on the behavioural relation to normative, democratic theory.

Since my professor is not so internet savy, he pointed me to a lot of research done in the early 90s that concluded it was all "business as usual", and asked me, why my project was different in any way, that would lead me to belive there was a chance I could come to different conclusions. Thats why I need to draw up a sort of timeline and point to some distinct differences between early usergroups, e-mail, forums and social networking sites. For this, I need references, and I need a better word than "forums" for the application, since it sounds kinda dumb.

Thanks again - I knew I could get some help here.



Re: help with internet communication timeline.
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2010, 04:14:08 AM »
Here's a nice piece from the Guardian detailing the History and peoples experiences from
40 years of Internet communication.

Give it a few seconds to load.
"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm"


Re: help with internet communication timeline.
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2012, 11:16:59 AM »
Who said I was fired?  The truth is that when AOL bought CompuServe they laid off over half of the associates, including me.  I believe AOL was not interested in any of our technology, just the customer base. 

The operating system was not TOPS-10.  It was an older version that was maintained and extended by ourselves.  I believe it was version 5, a predecessor of TOPS.  We didn't want to invalidate any of our customers' programs, you see.

Our first (MicroNET) e-mail program was called CBBCHK, which checked for waiting messages when a user logged in.  Yes, it was a tribute of sorts to the then-popular CBBS providers.

I don't know the hourly rate before MicroNET/CIS, but MicroNET started out at $5 per hour connect time, all-you-could-eat.  We found out that there were (and still are) malicious users whose favorite passtime is upsetting the applecart.  Changes to the MicroNET user experience soon followed some nasty behaviors.  The first major restriction was to take away access to the compilers and other system-level software, as this ability was used against us.  About the same time users were restricted to only having disk access to their own account rather that anywhere on a given nost computer.

In order to allow users to easily share files, despite the distributed nature of our computer capacity, a program called ACCESS was developed which allowed users to transfer files onto their own host and have them retrieved from any MicroNET/CIS host the following day.

In 1981, the president of CompuServe envisioned making software available for the various "home computers", or "micros", of the time.  And there was born the terms "upload" and "download", referring to the direction in which data were transfered: UP to the host, DOWN to the micro.  These terms are still in use all over the Internet.  The BBS community offered "R" (Read) and "S" (Send).

Another innovation of the time was called "threading", which was the term used to describe the default message retrieval order of Forum messages.  It meant that when messages were read, the default next message was the first reply, and in fact the entire network of replies.  Today, many forums offer "Threaded" messages.

One of the first multi-player games offered on a major computer network was called "Island of Kesmi".  It was a exploration and combat environment, similar to Dungeons & Dragons.  Others were SPCWAR and DECWAR. 

MicroNET was renamed CIS (CompuServe Information Service).  CIS added availability of news feeds, weather and many other sources reminiscent of today's WWW content.

Yes, my fingerprints were all over CompuServe Incorporated.  And now Internet.


Re: help with internet communication timeline.
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2012, 12:10:10 PM »
An interesting subject and not to confuse this with politics, you might want to look at the TV shows that use real time audience voting as a good model for modern instant democracy (AKA lynch mobs). Government needs to moderate simple democracy just like it needs to fetter raw capitalism (fetter not strangle).

We are seeing the early days of social networks being used for political ends. WWW fund raising from individuals was supposed to level the field for fund raising but it seems big money is still alive and well (here  :'( ). Social networking in the middle east is making it harder for oppressive governments to control information flow. Knowledge is truly power.. 

I hope the WWW will evolve to replace the local newspaper as a check to balance bad behavior by politicians. Free and open inspection of their bad behavior published for all to see should damp this bad behavior (so far not so much).

Our early experiences with the WWW will depend on age and personal situations.  One of my fist ah-hah moments regarding the power of email for communication was from talking with a friend who was on the road traveling around the world supporting AC/DCs touring sound system back in the '70s.  He was using an early incarnation of email (probably compuserve) to communicate with his home base and business manager while in different time zones thousands of miles away. Hard, and expensive to phone home when everybody is asleep or not home to answer.

My first personal benefit from email, was back in the '80s while writing a magazine column. By sending an electronic version of my monthly column instead of mailing a typed paper version, that they they would have to re-key, bought me several more days of lead time so I could submit my column later, closer to the deadline. My perception was that I also get edited less  ;D  as there were surely no errors associated with re-keying in my writing, and less opportunity to casually change stuff.

Most of my generation started with dial up modems, and I still have an old DEC printer/keyboard terminal back in my computer graveyard with an acoustic modem built in.. (back in the early days the telephone company wouldn't let you connect to their wires).  I recall connecting to a friend using that old DEC with acoustic modem, but it was just a gee whiz curiosity. Much easier to just talk to him over the phone handset.

There are several good books out there about the early days of the internets,,, I don't recall the name but there was one about a system manager chasing down and catching an early hacker back when this was still mostly universities and military networks, that was a good read.

John Roberts
Tune it, or don't play it...


Re: help with internet communication timeline. New
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2012, 01:42:16 PM »
I am greatly honored to be corrected by you, Russ.

Yes, much of cyber-space was your invention.

- 71031,3603
« Last Edit: February 02, 2012, 02:15:53 PM by PRR »


Every mic has a purpose it might be a door stop or a hammer, but every mic has a purpose.