Do you remember Bulletin Board Systems?

My first intro to “online communities” came not from AOL, CompuServe, or Apple’s eWorld but from local bulletin board systems, first in the Boston area circa 1991-1992 and then in the Seattle area circa 1992-1996.

I vividly remember sitting on auto-redial waiting to hear that modem challenge tone after 20 minutes of busy signals. I remember how excited I was to finally get that Global Village Teleport that could do 28.8 (sometimes), and then the ZyXEL that was expensive but rock solid and well engineered.

Ok, I sound like an old man on a rant: “In my day, we only had 2400 baud (I don’t go back any slower than that), and we had to maintain upload ratios to be able to download.”

But BBS’s were cool. Ultimately, of course, SLIP and PPP came along, and suddenly dialing into the internet made more sense than calling down the street. Usenet flame wars took the place of BBS flamewars. Then Mosaic came out, and the rest is history.
If you find yourself nodding in agreement to the above, you should run right out and get BBS the Documentary, an eight-episode, three-DVD documentary of the phenomenon. It was made between 2001 and 2005, and is released under a Creative Commons license. (Which means that you could just download it from here, but read this page first before you do.)
I only discovered it recently because Jason Scott, the director, spoke at OSCON about his upcoming documentary, “Get Lamp,” which turns out to not be about Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP (or Perl or Python) at all, but is about text adventure games.
Ok, full disclosure, I’ve only just ordered the DVDs myself. So it isn’t really fair to call this any kind of review – I’ll come back and post comments when the DVDs arrive and I’ve actually watched them.