My first BBSs were single line and used my own software written in Basic and then Turbo Pascal. I loved to be original and people enjoyed my software, even when it wasn't as reliable as it should have been. Back in the day, if your software crashed, your BBS would be down until you got home
I eventually bought someone's failed BBS project through The Recycler, yesteryear's equivalent of Craigslist. It had a six-line serial adapter and Microport Unix. I never liked Microport but it did work, after a fashion, and my six lines were quickly humming. Unfortunately, as we say in the Internet world, the revenue model was never what it should have been, although I remember being thrilled when my first subscriber check – $60 for an entire year! – came in, from one of my favorite users. I wanted to be a general purpose home for eccentrics, with both dating and discussion parts equally balanced. I have never had a more successful social life before or since. We would have roughly monthly meetings at various local venues, and a pretty substantial number of people would turn out. It was relatively easy making a geographically based community, because most people lived nearby thanks to free local calls and pricey "local long distance" ones.
There were a couple of bad apples, who trolled like crazy, but it was definitely a fun environment, and my six lines were always busy. I had the first three lines for the paying users, two for non-payers and one for administration. I set up a "holding tank" for new users and those who had been troublesome, which was a forerunner of today's ultra-complex moderation systems. It didn't work all that great since I have never been a big censorship supporter.
I still remember the one user who loved Werner Erhard's The Forum and kept posting about it, even though people were totally sick of the topic from minute one. I eventually set up the typo corrector (which changed "teh" to "the" and other similar conveniences) to change Forum to Murof. Made him mad as a hatter, but all in good fun.
Even though the system vanished due to a failing disk drive in the 1990s I still have fond memories of it. And I still have friends who are former users. Wish I'd kept a copy of the software. It did some pretty cool things. For instance, the dating questionnaire let you answer questions in your own words if one of the prepared answers didn't work for you.
What I really find sad about today's environment is that we are no longer open to much unique, different or eccentric. I tried creating a social network of my own, but I wasn't able to get anyone excited about it. It was unique, and different, and just not what people wanted. The world wanted the uniformity and impersonality of Facebook, not the informality and homey atmosphere I wanted to provide. The big city, not the small town.
Nowadays I'm a photographer instead of a programmer, with almost 2000 friends on Facebook. So you can teach an old dog new tricks. And honestly, I'm glad my photographs never crash.