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Low-cost, high-performance modems drove the use of online services and BBSes through the early 1990s.
Useful microcomputers did not exist at that time, and modems were both expensive and slow.
Community Memory therefore ran on a mainframe computer and was accessed through terminals located in several San Francisco Bay Area neighborhoods.
The poor quality of the original modem connecting the terminals to the mainframe prompted a user to invent the Pennywhistle modem, whose design was highly influential in the mid-1970s.
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.
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.
A bulletin board system, or BBS, is a computer server running custom software that allows users to connect to the system using a terminal program.
Once logged in, the user can perform functions such as uploading and downloading software and data, reading news and bulletins, and exchanging messages with other users through email, public message boards, and sometimes via direct chatting.