In the 1970s, before Twitter, Facebook or Friendster, two men electronically arranged to transport a helicopter motor using an Apple computer and modem Steve Jobs gave one of the men. From that interaction, a community called The Well was born.
According to the BBC, Dr. Larry Brilliant was a World Health Organization officer and friend of Jobs, trying to help rescue a downed helicopter in Kathmandu. After he linked up with Good Earth Catalog creator Stewart Brand, the two realized they could harness this electronic tele-conferencing technology for good.
The Well turned into a place where hackers, writers and hippies alike throughout the San Francisco Bay Area would dial in and share thoughts on technology, politics and philosophy. Furthermore, Grateful Dead fans—Deadheads—would login to connect with other fans and discuss the band. And often, these electronic interactions would lead to real life meetups.
But this wasn't the only community of its type; there was a place where you could post an electronic message for others to read and respond to. It's location? A record shop in Berkeley, Ca circa-1973. Leopold's records on the famous Telegraph Avenue had one of the first computers available to the public (see above image):
Soon the machine was filling up with messages, everything from a poet promoting his verses and musicians arranging gigs, to discussions of the best place to buy bagels.
The project, called Community Memory, survived on and off for more than a decade, installing more computers across the San Francisco area. But it was not until the 1980s that much of a crowd came to online life.
Doesn't sound too different that what we're doing now. [BBC]