Computer Science Department
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


A House of Cards: A History of the Inorganic Evolution of the CMU Bboard System Software


Nathaniel S. Borenstein

August 1985

The Carnegie Mellon University electronic bulletin board system is a vast patchwork of programs running on multiple machines and operating systems, creating the illusion of a network-wide information database where none actually exists. The system is extremely heavily used, with hundreds of generally satisfied users each day. Yet its history is an example of uncontrolled and undesigned software evolution at its purest. In this paper, the workings and evolution of the bboard system are explained, and perspectives of the programmers' maintainers are used to draw conclusions about the process by which user-oriented software is designed.

13 pages

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