The Computer-Mediated Story as
Collaborative Round-Robin

The Internet was officially opened in 1969 by J.C.R. Licklider, Lawrence G. Roberts, Bob Kahn, and Douglas Engelbart [Lei97]. By 1978 Randy Seuss and Ward Christiansen from Chicago, created the first personal-computer, bulletin-board system (BBS) [Fel93 p. 20]. This was essentially the common person's Internet until in 1995 the NSFnet opened the Internet's usage beyond academia and computer companies to include anyone [Nat99].

For awhile whole stories were passed around on mailing lists, USENET newsgroups or BBS message areas. In 1985 Bulletin Board Systems engendered Never-Ending Stories (NES), a system of electronically managed on-line round-robin storytelling originally conceived by Ian Dollery on Fawlty Towers BBS [Dol99]. Round-robin storytelling goes back at least as far as the Victorian era. Usually a group of people would agree to create a story through a chain of correspondence. One famous example of this is The Floating Admiral [Det31] created by 13 members of "The Detection Club" including Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and G. K. Chesterton. Computer mediated round-robins only made sense, since it speeds up the whole creation process and therefore requires less patience and dedication by its participants than the Victorian version.

Round-robins, paper or electronic, are basically sequential stories with one person adding on text to the story after another. Online the round-robin evolved into branching stories called add-on adventures, one of the earliest being Add-venture. Allen S. Firstenberg created Add-venture in 1987-88 for Nyack High School BBS. It was subsequently released on the Web in 1994 [Fir]. Charles Deemer edited a less software driven add-on story world called Stories of Downtown Anywhere [Dee94] which became one of the first critically recognised on-line collaborative works.