A Brief History of Social Media: Old Farts and The Seventies…and who cares?
In the beginning of personal computers was the Altair computer, made available through mail order starting in 1975.
In 1977 Apple made available the Apple ][ (pronounced Apple Two), one of the first mass produced computers available for the more average people, although most average people would not initially have the patience of ability to make productive use of it.
There were other computers released around that time, including the line from Commodore, Commodore PET (1977) The VIC-20 (1980), the Commodore 64 (1982), and the Commodore 128 (1985)
In the 70’s modems (piece of hardware) were created to allow computers to connect to each other via regular phone lines.. The early versions involvedplacing the phone handset physically in a cradle designed for it, which in turn was connected to the phone system.
Finally, at least for our purposes, smart modems were developed in the 80’s, again to fulfill the goal of connecting ONE computer to ANOTHER computer.
What resulted was the first uses of tools that today we call social medi a tools. In those days there wasn’t an awful lot you could do with computers, and even less you could do via connecting one to the other. The one use that sprung up was to allow people to communicate one to many, and to have dialogues online.
The name for the software that allowed this was “bulletin board software”. A person could call up and see what others had written on the bulletin board system, reply, and in some instances exchange software (often illegally). Systems were generally limited to one person connecting at any one time, so if someone was already connected everyone else calling would simply receive a busy signal.
In that era long distance phone calls were much more expensive, so initially bulletin board systems were local in nature, and in fact it was fairly common for people to get together every month or so, based on their involvement on a local bulletin board. So, some 30 years ago, people (including myself) were doing what today would be called “tweetups”.
The next step in evolution was linking together all this stand alone bulletin board systems so that one in Montreal could communicate (send and receive its messages) to one in Dallas. Networks were born, primitive but actually incredibly innovative for the time. By building a web of sites, it became possible by sending content in hops to actually reduce many long distance charges to zero.
Thus was born the first computer based “social media” networks that allowed communication from one to many, and many to many.
Ponder this. Most of the social media experts today were either not born then, or have almost no knowledge of these early systems. In itself that’s not a terribly profound piece of information, except that those of us who participated in social media 30 years ago are way beyond the point of considering it to be a cool toy that everyone needs to use. For the first years it was indeed, “way cool”, but for veterans, it social media’s value is determined by whether it can actually help us achieve our goals. For the more recent savants, the perspective tends to be different — “we have this cool toy so how can we use it for something useful”.
Social media was not “invented” by the current crop of gurus.