Wired's gallery of the paleolithic antecedents of today's social media technologies is a bit mismatched (some really interesting insights into today's media lineage, but mixed with some silliness), but the lead item, the Community Memory terminal from 1973, is pure gold. I wrote half an unsuccessful novel about this thing when I was about 25, and it's never stopped haunting me.
Three decades before Yelp and Craigslist, there was the Community Memory Terminal.
In the early 1970s, Efrem Lipkin, Mark Szpakowski and Lee Felsenstein set up a series of these terminals around San Francisco and Berkeley, providing access to an electronic bulletin board housed by a XDS-940 mainframe computer.
This started out as a social experiment to see if people would be willing to share via computer -- a kind of "information flea market," a "communication system which allows people to make contact with each other on the basis of mutually expressed interest," according to a brochure from the time.
What evolved was a proto-Facebook-Twitter-Yelp-Craigslist-esque database filled with searchable roommate-wanted and for-sale items ads, restaurant recommendations, and, well, status updates, complete with graphics and social commentary.
"This was really one of the very first attempts to give access to computers to ordinary people," says Marc Weber, the founding curator of the Internet History Program at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
Holy shit, that is a thing of beauty.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.