Rise of the Chatroom: A Brief Overview of How Internet Chatrooms Began

Chatroom

Years ago, before the Internet had its very first birthday on January 1st, 1983, there were a series of tech developments that ushered in new ways for computer users to communicate.

Long before the development of the modern laptop, this tech was far ahead of anything any tech developer could conceive. But believe it or not, none of this started in the 1980s. In fact, the very first semblance of computer socialization came about in the 1960s, right when Scottie was beaming up Captain Kirk and the rest of the Star Trek crew.

Unless you’re interested in computer lore and history, much of the information about how the Internet began is largely useless to the billions of Internet users across the globe. But history tells a story, and this story is what has given rise to the social networks that everyone loves today.

Here, we’ll explore the rise of the chatroom, the first actual social network.

PLATO

If you know anything about philosophy, you should be aware that Plato was arguably one of the most influential western philosophers in history. But when it comes to the computer world, the computer-based education system PLATO, or Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations, was just as influential.

This system was created in 1960 by Donald Blitzer and is heralded as the progenitor of the original chatroom.

In 1973, a few years after the U.S. Military launched ARPANET, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, David Wooley began writing software for PLATO.

His first program was dubbed PLATO notes, and this is often looked at as the very first computer-generated message board. Eventually, another program was built called Talkometric, and this is what many consider to be the first chatroom.

But PLATO remained as a general computer instruction system, so access to the networks was limited only to PLATO users. So unless you lived, breathed, or taught computer science in the mid-1970s, chances are you didn’t have access to PLATO.

Usenet

In 1979, what some consider to be the greatest proto-Internet development came from the minds of Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis. These two Duke University grad students conceived Usenet, and when it launched in 1980, Usenet became the precursor to modern-day online forums.

During the early ‘80s, Usenet was home to newsgroups, each fairly organized by topic. A user could jump on a newsgroup and chat or download information to a disk, which made the computer subculture at the time begin to make waves in popular culture.

Further, Usenet is functioning today as a separate entity from the Internet itself, a sprawling network of interconnected chat rooms with a community-oriented structure. However, you can also access Usenet via the Internet and access many of the newsgroups within the network to download user-generated content, as well as submit your own.

It is recommended that to access the Usenet, you use a newsreader, or a browser that allows you to access the thriving, bountiful network.

CB Simulator and AOL

During the rise of Usenet, Compuserve, the first company to offer online services, developed what was dubbed as CB simulator in 1980. This was done in order to entice people to buy into Internet services along with offering a collection of chatrooms.

A decade later in 1992, AOL began offering Usenet and chatroom services as part of a free trial for people to sign up for their Internet services. And as this happened, the once private spaces that were frequented by mostly computer enthusiasts, academics, and nerds of all backgrounds became free to play for the general public.

Going forward, as AOL further popularized the Internet and as the Internet became more accessible and affordable for the masses, chatrooms evolved into social networks.

Finally, in the early 2000 era, MySpace and Facebook would take over where chatrooms left off, creating a whirlwind of social interaction that has led us to where we stand today.

Despite what many people might think, social networks are still evolving. And as these networks have billions of users collectively, the future is uncertain as to how social networking will change. But if anything is true, we owe all of our beloved social networks to the early chatrooms of the ’70s and ’80s.