In the days before the Internet we had Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). If you are not familiar, a BBS functioned more or less like a web site does today but on a much smaller scale (a few hundred users for most boards) and with far less sophistication in terms of presentation (text or simple, blocky graphics with about 16 color options). Each system operator (sysop) had to supply a computer with modem(s), software licenses, at least one phone line, loads of personal time, and an excess of sugary, caffeinated beverages. A typical BBS would contain multiple discussion boards, private messaging, file downloads, and a few online games.
I regularly visited a few systems during my early high school days; among them Woody’s Nest and The Jungle. I don’t really recall many other names. There were some good times, mostly playing the games. BRE was the king of online games at that time for me. Not only did you play against other people on the same BBS, but it was possible for games to span several boards.
I recall at one point, a few of the local boards organized a barbeque gathering at one of the nearby state parks. I went with several of my friends, though I think we mostly kept to ourselves to people-watch, and left after finding the nerdy old adults to be quite boring.
While in high school, I ran my own board on a very slow and clunky PC: an 8086 with a 2400 baud modem IIRC, substandard even for that time. It was a fun experience, and an enlightening view into the tightly-knit community of other sysops. One particularly nice fellow logged in out of the blue about a week after I started the board to upload a staggeringly impressive piece of ANSI art for me to use as the login page. I still wish I had a copy of that file.
After being up and running for a few weeks, I went on a family vacation leaving two of my friends in charge of the system. Upon returning home about a week later, I found the PC completely locked up with a Pac-man game frozen on the screen. Apparently, teenage mischief combined with a gross lack of understanding about finer points of BBS software led to this. After a few WTF phone calls, I made some updates to criteria for selecting the help and promptly reduced their access level.
The board did not survive after a hard drive failure took it down in another month or two. Having recently obtained an actual internet connection, its fate was pretty much sealed as there was a much bigger world to explore (and only one phone line). Also, I did not have a backup (pro-tip: always keep a backup).
While the rapid spread of the internet did have an impact on the BBS community, it did not completely demolish the format. There are still a number of systems running, though now on the internet instead of over phone modems (for the most part). Most of the world, however, moved on to web-based forums/blogs, peer-to-peer downloading, e-mail, and MMO games. This is not a bad thing, IMO, as much of the limitations and frustrations of the BBS were eliminated in favor of newer, better limitations and frustrations of the Internet. Still, it is sometimes fun to think back on how different things were.