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One particularly influential example was PLATO, which had thousands of users by the late 1970s, many of whom used the messaging and chat room features of the system in the same way that would become common on BBSes.Early modems were generally very simple devices using acoustic couplers to handle telephone operation.Low-cost, high-performance modems drove the use of online services and BBSes through the early 1990s.Infoworld estimated that there were 60,000 BBSes serving 17 million users in the United States alone in 1994, a collective market much larger than major online services such as Compu Serve.Some offer access through packet switched networks or packet radio connections.A precursor to the public bulletin board system was Community Memory, started in August 1973 in Berkeley, California.It did offer the ability to tag messages with keywords, which the user could use in searches.The system acted primarily in the form of a buy and sell system with the tags taking the place of the more traditional classifications.
Bulletin board systems were in many ways a precursor to the modern form of the World Wide Web, social networks, and other aspects of the Internet.
External modems were available for these platforms but required the phone to be dialed using a conventional handset, making them unable to accept incoming calls without manual intervention.
Internal modems could be software controlled to perform both outbound and inbound calls, but external modems had only the data pins to communicate with the host system.
Today, BBSing survives largely as a nostalgic hobby in most parts of the world, but it is still an extremely popular form of communication for Taiwanese youth (see PTT Bulletin Board System) and in China.
Most BBSes are now accessible over Telnet and typically offer free email accounts, FTP services, IRC and all of the protocols commonly used on the Internet.