Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Farewell, Old Friend

My first e-mail address was 71554,3411. (I was able to type this from memory.) Some of you will recognize that as a CompuServe address. I'd first gone online after buying my Gateway computer in September of 1993. It wasn't my first computer; it was my first with a modem. It enabled me to enter a world I'd been reading about for a dozen years.

That particular world has evolved by leaps and bounds. CI$ opened up to internet e-mail, then added personal websites through Our World. Alas, the service wasn't profitable for its various owners and, while America Online talked a good game when it bought CompuServe in 1997, the service itself was never a serious priority for AOL. By the time I finally closed out my CompuServe Classic account in April 2007, the Forums I participated in were only a shadow of the old CompuServe.

I kept my account as long as I did because that's where Pastor Zip's Christian Links and my Lutheran Links sites were hosted there. It's only been a couple of years since I've finally closed the old account down. And then, shortly after my last post, I read this:

CompuServe Classic laid to rest

by Tom Krazit

CompuServe Classic, the initial on-ramp to the information superhighway for a generation of Americans, has died. It was 30 years old.

AOL, the current owner of CompuServe, confirmed the passing of CompuServe Classic in a message sent to subscribers last week. The company had announced plans to shut down the service in April, urging customers still dependent on cheap dial-up services to move to a surviving version, CompuServe 2000.

Back in the early days of the PC, CompuServe was the Google of its day. Introduced in 1979, it was the premier service for a small number of geeks in the 1980s looking to share files and conversation as well as corporate customers looking for ways to connect their offices. And by the early 1990s, before the dawn of the World Wide Web and browsers, CompuServe's forums were the place to be on the Internet.

Other Internet service providers, such as America Online and Prodigy, chipped away at CompuServe's lead with lower-priced services. AOL eventually purchased CompuServe in a complicated deal with Worldcom, which took over CompuServe's networking assets. Development of the service stagnated compared to AOL's primary service, and both brands fell prone to the gradual movement of Internet subscribers to much faster broadband connections provided by cable or telephone companies.

CompuServe is survived by thousands of 9 and 10-digit usernames assigned to e-mail subscribers, an astonishing number of whom can still remember their numbers to this day and who left their remembrances on a CompuServe discussion forum. Only 7 percent of U.S. residents still use a dial-up service to access the Internet, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.
Oh, dear. I'm part of that 7%.

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