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Summary:

Om Malik pointed out that AOL has turned out the lights on CompuServe after 30 years of service. Om told a great story of how CompuServe played a role in his profession as a technology writer, and based on his career, a great role it played. […]

compuserve-logoOm Malik pointed out that AOL has turned out the lights on CompuServe after 30 years of service. Om told a great story of how CompuServe played a role in his profession as a technology writer, and based on his career, a great role it played. I remember CompuServe when it WAS the Internet. There were no web sites, no email, no Facebook, no Twitter, nothing.

CompuServe was the place where geeks could congregate and discuss geek stuff. In those early years, the only other places where geeks could get together virtually and share experiences about using those new computer things were local bulletin board systems (BBSs). CompuServe was amazing to us, as it formed a place where lots of BBSs could form in one place, and thousands of geeks flocked to the service.

We were all connecting via super-fast 2400 baud dial-up modems, and a lot of effort was spent to make sure we were connecting via local numbers; long-distance geekery was just too expensive. In spite of all the obstacles to building this unique global community CompuServe grew massive and was a glimmer in the geek’s eye of how great the web could and eventually would be.

I got my first taste of online service on CompuServe. I was invited by IBM to moderate its Aptiva forum on the service. Aptiva was IBM’s home computer line at the time, and the forum was a great place to test my toes in the water of the online community. I had a blast working in that forum, and it paved the way for my work today.

So long, CompuServe. You were an extremely important chapter in the web’s history. You brought the geek world together and showed us what community and social networking could be in its simplest form. You will be missed.

  1. 2400! Amazing! I remember moving from 300, than which you can read faster, to 1200. But 2400?

    That’s an excellent description. It really was the web, as you say. I used local BBSs, three, until I had an email address, still before windows, and websites were, as I recall, all text. My brother thought the IRC was the cat’s meow.

    I didn’t remember AOL acquiring CompuServe. I thought they were rivals.

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  2. Wow, Compuserve was my first ISP back in 1994 I believe. I think I used a 14.4k baud modem or even earlier than that to connect!

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  3. I got on CompuServe about 1986 with my Epson Equity 1 PC with two floppy drives, no HD, about 256kb(?) RAM, black-screen monitor with green characters, and a Hayes 1200 BAUD modem. My other main program was word-processing software XyWrite. At the time, it was a good setup.

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  4. I still fondly remember my Aptiva computers, despite the constant issues with its mWave sound/modem card…

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  5. Started with Compuserve in 1982 using a RadioShack Color Computer with 300 baud modem. Later the modems progressed to 1200, 2400, 9600, and 14400. By then, I was doing the “regular” internet thing, but I kept Compuserve as an ISP especially for dialup access in distant locations, including Europe. A great community and the best source of information from the 1980s through about the mid-1990s.

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  6. 2400 baud? lol….
    I used compuserve with my TRS-80 Model 1, and a 300 baud manual modem. You had to dial the phone yourself, then flip the switch to connect. I think that was around 1979/80.

    I also used GEnie for a couple years while I was in college since it was the only service with a local number.

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  7. I had some initial exposure to CompuServe via my father’s TRS-80 in the early 1980s making it, along with The Source (which CompuServe later acquired), my first real exposure to the online world.

    When I graduated from college with a computer engineering degree in 1991, my first job was at CompuServe working as a junior engineer in the “entertainment technology” department, which handled games and the CB Simulator (their name for chat). I worked there for around 4 1/2 years, leaving just a few months before they were finally acquired by AOL. As a bit of history, CompuServe was owned by H&R Block during those years. They had purchsed it in the hope of establishing a solid year-round business that could help sustain them outside of tax season.

    During the time I was employed there, I did have a completely free account (during the era when they still charged by the hour) and became very active on several of the forums. Back then, my interests tended to lean more towards entertainment, so my primary focus was on the Showbiz and TVZone forums. Showbiz was particularly fun as Roger Ebert was a very active participant there.

    I actually have kept an active paid account mostly out of habit and nostalgia ever since I left the job there, but I admit I haven’t really used it other than as a secondary email address for a couple years. Still, I can’t help feeling a bit sad to see it go.

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  8. This posting really sparked my nostalgia for my years working at CompuServe and I ended up writing a long (probably too long…) blog post chronicling my experiences there. Here is the link, if anyone is interested:

    http://blog.bigbeaks.com/2009/07/11/compuserve-memories/

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