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Online bulletin board inventor Randy Suess dies at 74

He made the precursor to social networks and online forums.
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ThomasVogel via Getty Images

It's a sad week if you've ever posted on a social network or an internet forum. Randy Suess, the creator of the software for first online public bulletin board, died on December 10th at the age of 74. He and Ward Christensen built the Computer Bulletin Board System (CBBS) in 1978 to give users a central place to float ideas, post notices and otherwise coordinate without meeting in person. Of course, it wasn't nearly as sophisticated as the giant internet services you see today -- CBBS revolved around a customized personal computer that required a dial-up modem to access.

For the next couple of decades, these dial-up bulletin boards (BBSes for short) were the first taste of the online world for many people. They quickly grew to cover many of the features you expect from the modern internet, such as live chat, multiplayer games and, of course, social posts. It was just cruder -- many techies have memories of taking all night to download a new game, or having to compete with parents for the phone line.

The internet has long since taken over the roles BBSes served, and the results haven't entirely been positive. Just ask anyone who has waded into the muck of hostile comments on social networks and video sites. However, it's safe to say that online communication wouldn't have gotten off the ground when it did without Suess' work. The impact of his work will likely be felt for a long, long time to come.

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