Computers - Communication
Social networking in the net is nowadays based on such services and applications as web
forums, messengers, Skype, MySpace or Facebook, IRC, Usenet news and why not also e-mails.
There were virtual communities already before internet in the form of Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). They were working in dial-up lines and were therefore normally only countrywide or even more local phenomena. I discovered the first Finnish BBS's in the beginning of 80's and tried a few of them, but quitted soon. I found the BBS's again in 1989 when the fastest grow and pioneer time of BBS's in Finland was almost over and internet plus world wide web were around the corner.
There were hundreds of BBS's in Finland too, for many kinds of interests. I was a member of a couple of so called "discussion boxes", where users exchanged messages in a similar way as in the on-line forums nowadays. I participated only randomly in the conversation topics. Maybe one reason was that the other users were mostly students or school kids and I was a 50 year old dad. :) There were also some BBS's dedicated to computing and files. The only one of that kind, which I frequently visited and sometimes still visit, is the BBS of The PC Users of Finland (PCUF). It was possible to access the Unix (now Linux) shell, use the Unix programs like 'tin' for Usenet newsgroups, elm or Pine as e-mail clients and Emacs for editing. With my 286 and DOS operation system I was able to use Lynx for web browsing.
In addition to the direct on-line use of BBS's via dial-up lines, it was also possible to use off-line readers, which reduced notably the dial-up connection time and telephone bill.
I also participated in some BBS meetings, where users met each other face-to-face. Internet with its more global services like Usenet news gradually killed the BBS's although there emerged also BBS's, which had a web browser interface. Some newer virtual communities, which are web based forums, have adopted the old name BBS. The idea is the same old, just the technique is different. A couple of years ago I joined again to one of the last discussion BBS's still existing. It has both a web browser interface and an off-line reader interface working on Windows.
One Internet service, which did not suffer much from character based operation system, was Internet Relay Chat (IRC), which I discovered in 1993. One is able to chat interactively on a myriad of channels with many users or privately with one or more users. The IRC client program in PCUF was ircII, a well working and configurable character based IRC client, which I like and am still using sometimes. However, nowadays I'm mostly using the popular Windows client mIRC via a real internet service provider. I must admit that I'm addicted to IRC. I have got quite many good friends from different countries. Although I also exchange e-mails with some of them, there is always a thrill in meeting on-line, even for just a short chat.
A newer acquaintance is the messenger services. I have tried ICQ, MSN and Yahoo Messenger as well as Skype.
I was connected to the BBS's and later to internet service providers via dial-up lines using modems, the line rate of which increased rapidly. My first modem was a Nokia 300bit/s modem (V.21), when I was connected to the BBS's from my Commodore 64 computer. I owned also Nokia 1200 kbit/s (V.22) and Nokia ECM Fast SW 14400 bit/s (V.32bis) modems, the last one just before ADSL started to be popular.
Finally with increased availability of photography, music and video streams in the internet and having a faster PC in use, I acquired an ADSL connection in 2002.