bulletin board system
Before the Web took over the world, computer hobbyists and companies often connected to other techies via electronic bulletin board systems, or BBSs. At its simplest, a BBS consists of a computer, BBS software that provides electronic mail and discussion groups, and a modem. Anyone wanting to access the BBS would dial directly into the system's modem, using a simple terminal emulation program. Once connected, they could send and receive email or reply to messages in the newgrouplike posting sections.
Some BBSs became quite sophisticated and grew into large operations that allowed users to download files, chat in real time, and play games online. BBSs could also join networks (such as Fidonet), allowing mail to be transferred from one BBS to another.
BBSs suffered some serious drawbacks, however. For instance, most used a strictly text-based interface and couldn't display graphics online. And unless the BBS you wanted to visit was in your local area, dialing up was a toll call.
For these reasons and more, the Web has replaced BBSs for most purposes, though some sysops and companies still maintain their systems or even connect them directly to the Web.
See also: newsgroup