Like many young programmers of my age, before I could use the Internet, there were BBSs. I eventually ran one, though in my small town there were few callers.
The documentary was released in 2005 and spans 8 episodes on 3 DVDs. I’d watched parts of it before, but recently watched the whole series.
It’s really well done, and it’s not just about the technology. Yes, that figures in, but it’s about the people. At times, it was nostalgic to see people talking about things I clearly remembered. Often, I saw long-forgotten pioneers interviewed. And sometimes, such as with the ANSI art scene, I learned a lot about something I was aware of but never really got into back then.
BBSs and the ARPANet (predecessor to the Internet) grew up alongside each other. One was funded by governments and universities; the other, by hobbyists working with inexpensive equipment, sometimes of their own design.
You can download the DVD images (with tons of extras) or watch just the episodes on Youtube following the links on the author’s website.
The thing about BBSs is that they never actually died. Now I’m looking forward to watching the Back to the BBS documentary series about modern BBSs as well.