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Online Services: The Internet Before the Internet

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the back-in-my-day dept.

America Online 387

jfruh writes "The Slashdot readership is probably split pretty evenly into two groups. There are those for whom full-on Internet access has been available for their entire computer-using lives, and then there are those who wanted to use the Net from home before 1991, and who therefore had to use a BBS or an online service. Here's a tour of some of these services, including Prodigy, Compuserve, and of course AOL. This should be a nostalgic trip for the oldsters among us, and a history lesson for Gen Y readers."

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How I first got introduced to the Internet (4, Interesting)

Mickey06 (2611575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593621)

Back in time my dad didn't give me internet access, so I had to resort to offline things. However, that was all fine because I used to learn a lot from it. I used to do programming for a long time before Internet, and I am actually glad I did. It feels like the current generation is too obscured with useless things and even new programmers copy paste their code from searches performed on Google. It hardly teaches you anything. I used to read programming books and manuals that came with the tools. I actually had to walk to my friends place to download the latest XNA and Visual Studio. Now kids get it too easily. However, I do find my new internet access fascinating. My dad and I had a discussion and he gave me access. It gives a little nostalgic tear on my eye when I first time logged in to the Internet and made Facebook account so that I could chat with my friends. Good times there, folks.

Re:How I first got introduced to the Internet (4, Informative)

johnb10001 (604626) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593765)

I started using the internet around 1978 when I was in college. We had super fast 9600 baud terminals back then and about a dozen Universities were connected to the internet at that time. After graduation I had Compuserve which if I remember right it costs ten dollars a month plus additional time while online. It the 90's AOL bought Compuserve and I switched over to Netscape for email. During most of the 80's I used dial up bulletin boards for games and discussion boards.

Re:How I first got introduced to the Internet (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593939)


9600 didn't show up until the mid 1980s.

If you're gonna lie, at least do some research first so that those of us from that era might believe you for a sec.

Re:How I first got introduced to the Internet (4, Informative)

johnb10001 (604626) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593993)

This Wikipedia article shows the modem types and years released. []

Re:How I first got introduced to the Internet (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594049)

You are correct about *dial-up* 9600 baud modems, but you could get leased line 9600 baud connections in the late 70's. I know, because my university also had one.

Re:How I first got introduced to the Internet (5, Informative)

FishOuttaWater (1163787) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594051)

He said terminal, not modem.

Re:How I first got introduced to the Internet (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594055)

There were 9,600 bps terminals then. He said nothing about a 9,600 bps modem. The school could have had a 9,600 or even 56k bps leased line then.

Re:How I first got introduced to the Internet (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594085)

He didn't say he had a 9600 baud modem, he said he had a 9600 baud terminal. Quite reasonable for a serial link. I had a 19,200 baud serial link to the campus network in about 1988 or 1989. Also in my computer was a 2400 baud modem.

Re:How I first got introduced to the Internet (3, Insightful)

Georules (655379) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593881)

The first time you "logged in to the Internet" was to make a Facebook account? Also, I'm not sure how walking to your friend's place to get Visual Studio taught you anything more about programming -- certainly less than experimenting with example code you find on a website, usually provided from other developers attempting to solve similar problems.

Oldster? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593627)

What is an oldster?

Re:Oldster? (2, Funny)

Jello B. (950817) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593651)

It's you.

Re:Oldster? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593653)

"Oldster" is oldfag for "oldfag." It's how we truly know that only newfags oldfag.

Re:Oldster? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593953)

Cheers to you sir.
I bow to ur wisdom

Re:Oldster? (1, Troll)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593663)

An oldster is anyone older then roughly 30 (in the context of the article). People who can remember using 14.4 and/or slower modems, and playing things like LORD. []

Re:Oldster? (4, Funny)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593749)


Whipersnapper! Get off my lawn.

We started at 300 baud, and were lucky to get that. The long period of dead traffic right in the middle of the message taunted you to hang up and dial again, only to have it sputter out another few characters.

Re:Oldster? (4, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593995)

We started at 300 baud, and were lucky to get that.

That's nothing. Back in the day, we had to get our internet via semaphore flags. One person would work the computer and another would be the spotter, using a pair of binoculars. It would take all day just to draw the screen,

Re:Oldster? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594035)

I remember when I 'upgraded' from 300 baud to my 1200 baud Zoom modem, omg I was in heaven, it was so much faster! :-D ...and then, years later, being so frustrated that my 56K modem never seemed to connect at better than like 28K. :-P

Re:Oldster? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593757)

NetTrek anyone?

I find it somewhat odd that they skipped the eco-system of usenet -- 14.4Modem hanging off a system at my graduate student office was decent enough for reading actual usenet articles. Back when things were fun and you got to really know what was going on -- let's see how do I set up /etc/inittab to answer and run login?

That being said, I'm in the third group -- had two c64's with ad-hoc network between them. Not old enough to do anything with punch cards but use them to as note cards. Though I did do maintenance on Fortran IV code which was about like editing punch cards in a screen editor.

Re:Oldster? (5, Interesting)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593809)

Egads, I'm not even an oldster, they're too young! I had to follow the link to remember a mention of LORD. And 14.4 modems were the 3rd or 4th upgrade for me, after having the wonderful experience of an new 300 baud modem. That would be after coding my first game, in assembly, on an Atari 800. We played things like Zork, Wizardry, Hack, and, heck, there was some star based game on DECs we used to play, although the name escapes me now. For that matter, there were an entire sequence of very popular Infocom games (I admit I still have them in a box upstairs) that I played, and the original D&D games in amazing 2 bit color (ok, perhaps only my graphics card was monochrome, I don't recall) But I do recall FIDONET as a new wondrous thing (hey, if we're mentioning BBS's, might as well mention the first networked system) OK, nostalgia satisfied, time to go back to my VCR and reel to reel.

Re:Oldster? (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594017)

And 14.4 modems were the 3rd or 4th upgrade for me

That's nothing. My first monitor was a cave wall.

I would sit with my back to the cave's opening and watch the shadows cast upon the inside wall.

Re:Oldster? (1)

Tom Christiansen (54829) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593879)

An oldster is anyone older then roughly 30 (in the context of the article). People who can remember using 14.4 and/or slower modems, and playing things like LORD.

No, you mean rogue(6), whose magic word was Elbereth . My fingers have the movements in muscle memory. Something about 100,000 lines of C code written in vi does that to a kid. Or maybe the 10,000 games of rogue(6). Prolly both.

Earlier still was ADVENT, whose magic word was xyzzy . Whole 'nother country, that.

Re:Oldster? (1)

anwaya (574190) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594039)


You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.
There is Microsoft here.

Re:Oldster? (4, Funny)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593931)

That 30 years figure must be outdated!
Oldsters are always at least 15 years older than I am.

Re:Oldster? (2, Funny)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593669)

They're like hipsters but they've had hip replacements so they prefer a non-hip term.

Re:Oldster? (1)

Mickey06 (2611575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593737)

They're like hipsters but they've had hip replacements so they prefer a non-hip term.

Citation needed, do you have a source for that?

Re:Oldster? (-1, Flamebait)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593813)

Probably a euphemism for "old-fag" I should think.

Third and fourth groups (4, Insightful)

dbc (135354) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593647)

Third group: Those who had Apple II or C64 or TRS-80 or some such.

Fourth (my) group: Those who carried boxes of punch cards across campus.

Re:Third and fourth groups (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593679)

I'm so old I'm older than the "oldsters"? I'm not even that old!

Re:Third and fourth groups (3, Funny)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593725)

What about my group? I didn't grow up with computers, Computers grew up with me. []

I was online in 1983. It was CumpuServe and it really sucked. At 300 baud it was text-only and there was little there.

BBSes were better. They were 9600 baud and FREE!

I wasn't on the real internet until 1997. 33k modem, WOW What speed!

Man, it was primitive...

Re:Third and fourth groups (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593831)

I don't recall Compuserve in 83. I was, however, on the nascent network soon to be known as "the internet". I do recall it around 87 or so.

Re:Third and fourth groups (0)

Mickey06 (2611575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593929)

It's not the first time mcgay is wrong.

Re:Third and fourth groups (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593727)

Fifth group :

Those who carried an abacus in the service of their
Ming Dynasty emperor.

Top that, bitch.

Re:Third and fourth groups (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593971)

Geez, your pebbles had holes in them? I had to make tally marks in wet clay tablets.

Re:Third and fourth groups (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593761)

Awww, the inevitable floor sort, and the diagonal marker lines.....

Re:Third and fourth groups (3, Interesting)

dbc (135354) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594047)

Ahhh, yes.... the floor sort. Diagonal lines, good. And pranking people by collecting all the chad from the keypunches in the student keypunch area and... finding creative places to hide it.

Speaking of the floor sort, true confession time: I actually had a part time job as an "operator". Mainly feeding the card reader and filing output into pigeon holes. There was a punch card fed typesetting program that understood all the thesis requirements for margin and TOC and bibliography sites and such, and could to math and chemistry typesetting with weird escape sequences (all upper case, mind you). Think TeX, only punch-card oriented. It had one fairly serious design flaw, it pretty much insisted on reading all 80 columns of the card, so you couldn't use columns 73-80 for sequence numbers as was the usual for most programs in those days. We had a card sorter and operations would sort anyone's deck for free while-you-wait. But thesis decks were a no-go for sorting. Anyway, there was this one chemistry PhD student who's thesis deck was about 1 3/4 boxes of cards. I forget, is a box 8000 cards or there about? Anyway, he gave it to me one day. As I was loading the card reader with big fist-fulls of cards, I bumped my elbow on the reader and pretty much scattered to the wind about 1000 cards. As he silently watched I stopped the card reader, gathered all the loose cards and put them back in the box and said "Sorry." He didn't say a word -- amazing self control -- I think he was at the point of exploding. I saw him again about two weeks later -- he very quietly peeked around the door to see if it was my shift, saw me, and left. Never saw him again.

Re:Third and fourth groups (1)

Narrowband (2602733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593819)

Sign me up for group 3: I still remember the noise from loading programs into a TI-99/4A by cassette tape. And "portable computing" meant you had one of those early HP programmable calculators with the software on mag-cards.

Re:Third and fourth groups (1)

johnb10001 (604626) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593823)

During the first two years of college we used punched cards to program in FORTRAN. One day a few years ago at Fry's I saw a box labelled FOTRAN for Visual Studio and thought about buying it. In the last two years of college we used internet terminals when it was call DARPNET or ARPANET. My first home computer was a TRS-80.

Re:Third and fourth groups (1)

Timinithis (14891) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593895)

I would be in group 3. Where is the mention of QLink?

Re:Third and fourth groups (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593989)

I would be in group 3. Where is the mention of QLink?

It's sort of in the summary:

Here's a tour of some of these services, including Prodigy, Compuserve, and of course AOL.

Re:Third and fourth groups (1)

dbc (135354) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594065)

I guess that falls in "some such". There were a whole bunch of computers in those days. I had a SWTPCo 6800 system before my Apple II. And before the C64 Commodore made the PET computers. TI had one... Sinclair. Fun times, actually.

Re:Third and fourth groups (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594031)

Oh my! I carried boxes of punch cards to the one computer at Michigan Tech. Gave up given the line was about a block long.

Rotating AOL trials (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593661)

AOL would only keep credit card info for 3 months so you could get the service free by rotating credit cards and canceling after the monthly trial period.

Re:Rotating AOL trials (1)

Mickey06 (2611575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593693)

AOL would only keep credit card info for 3 months so you could get the service free by rotating credit cards and canceling after the monthly trial period.


I had full-on internet access when I was a kid... (5, Funny)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593675)

...well, my dad did. So, I had the experience of playing the "Star Trek" game on a printing terminal connected via an acoustic coupler. It was the Arpanet back then, and not the Internet, and we wore an onion on our belt, a big yellow one, because that was the style.

What was I saying? Oh, right, "full on" internet access wasn't so good in the days before BBSing was popular.

Why why why why (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593685)

Do I Do I See See Everything Everything Twice Twice?


Not the only choices (1)

kd6ttl (1016559) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593687)

Some of us were on BITNET.

Using a BBS was a privilige (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593689)

And running one was an honor. Before the internet took away the sysops, each man or woman was king of their own castle, linked only by the roads of the mail networks. And I'm barely Gen X at 34.

In Soviet Russia (2)

Roachie (2180772) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593705)

Internet reminisces about YOU!

Ah, BBSs (5, Interesting)

black6host (469985) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593707)

I ran one, great times. Blazing 300 baud modem. By the time I was done we were up to 56K. I could probably still tell you the connection speed based on the squawks during the initial connection session.

I'm still very nostalgic about those times as I was part of them, and contributed to them. My BBS was free, and wasn't half bad. Of course Fido Net really gave you that sense of being in communication with the rest of the world. Amazing stuff!

Re:Ah, BBSs (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593769)

My BBS was free

Weren't they all? I never saw a paid for one.

Re:Ah, BBSs (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593799)

FidoNet was terrific. I made several long term friends on that system. I even had a gateway over which you could send internet email.

The internet though has pretty much supplanted that.

Re:Ah, BBSs (2)

Narrowband (2602733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593891)

Thinking back, I sometimes wonder if BBSs weren't more fun then than the Internet is now. Now it's too... I don't know, serious. People do work with it. Students can look things up for school. You can shop for stuff. Sure, there are games, and social networking, and so forth, but it's missing something.

BBSs, though, they were all for fun. Maybe you got some modems and ran one with your friends. If you were keeping pace, you went for the latest software and added "doors" for things like games and such. They were pretty small deals; you knew most everyone on your board, it was like your own private club or treehouse.

Oh well, I guess you can never go back again.

Re:Ah, BBSs (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593919)

I still remember the ...bong...bong... tone from my 56k USR Sportster attempting an x2 connection, which was one of the two competing OEM "standards" for what eventually became v.90 (it lost out to K56flex, but the modem's firmware was upgradeable).

Hah, for that matter I can just about whistle 14.4k V.42 handshaking tones. Good times on the old QuickBBS-based system in my hometown; alas, it was too far out in the sticks to be on Fidonet.

This was back in the Bad Old Days when it was possible to get a 14.4 external modem for a contemporaneous computer whose maker had cheaped out and used 16450 UARTs that could only drive a serial port to IIRC 9600 bps reliably, which led to lots of CRC errors.

Re:Ah, BBSs (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593987)


You had to trim the buffers for the UART in Windows to avoid some of that. Trumpet Winsock over a SLIP connection would drive you crazy.

America Online (4, Interesting)

PrimalChrome (186162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593709)

I remember when America Online was a BBS run by Rocky Rawlins in Birmingham, AL. He sold the name to some unheard of upstart company who offered him stock instead of cash. He took the $15k in cash. Oops.

Re:America Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593869)

Woo - I was a member of the Birmingham, AL America Online, too! I was either a senior in high school or a freshman in college when Rocky sold the name. The new name for the former America Online? Another pop culture premonition! The Matrix!

He and his family lived in a fabulous old Victorian and listened to NPR - my first introduction to liberals in the Deep South.

Re:America Online (1)

PrimalChrome (186162) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593913)

Yah, I was always amazed that The Matrix BBS had 20+ lines and served as an EZnet hub. That was simply an amazing feat for a BBS that a guy just ran for fun. Rocky and Tom were ahead of their time.

unheard of upstart company: (1)

Burz (138833) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593927)

Quantum Computer Services (aka QuantumLink, which was basically AOL for Commodore 64 users... later they had AppleLink for Apples).

Other early services I remember:

The Source (later merged with CompuServe)

Portal (semi-popular Unix accounts with some Internet access)

Galaxy BBS ... a large PC-based BBS in New Mexico trying to be CompuServe

Fidonet and Citadel networked BBSs

Re:unheard of upstart company: (1)

trandles (135223) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593955)

I was an avid user of Q-Link on my C-64 with a 300 baud modem. The closest access number was long distance and I was in high school at the time. Every time the phone bill arrived I cringed imagining what my father was going to say...

I don't remember it all that nostalgically.... (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593713)

I remember the daily ritual of signing on to Compuserve to get the daily email from our customers in Europe, as well as telex orders.

It was pretty much useless as far as I can recall, but it was a boat load cheaper than phone calls for tech support issues.
When we first started, there was just beginning to be interconnection between Compuserve and a few other providers. Customers would send us Compuserve mails to let us know they were having problems dialing into our BBS system from India, and Britain.

The internet came along in our part of the hinterlands, and we hopped on that as fast as possible. We were only too happy to be free of these other services. Even if Email did take a day to arrive (I kid you not, it took a day to get an email from India, and it was routed through the most amazing places).

So, no, not nostalgic. Nightmare perhaps. Trying to type an answer to a tech support question into the glass tty screen with the minute meter clicking in your head, because copy/paste hadn't really been worked out yet. Being charged by the message length!! Arrrggggh.

No thank you. I'm not taking the tour.

Internet before the Internet (3, Informative)

Narrowband (2602733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593715)

The Internet was available before 91 on dial-up, at least if you were a college student. There just wasn't as much on it then, and sometimes it was more likely you could reach your friends online on your local BBS. Heck, there wasn't even DNS, you had a phone book of IPs you entered into your hosts table.

But I bet the real Internet culture shock for Gen X/Y is probably that they don't remember a time before commercial content or business activity was allowed on the Internet. It wasn't just that there wasn't a web and e-commerce hadn't taken off, it was freakin' prohibited.

Re:Internet before the Internet (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594029)

In 87 or 88 I caught wind of a system I could accss through the University of Maine (I lived near Orono at the time).

It had email, chat rooms, discussion forums, multiplayer/MUD games, flight simulators, and I could write programs on it if I bothered to learn how.

It was called NovaNET.

And it's still around.

We used modems to connect, ran a terminal emulator, and I played a LOT of Avatar, running a Ninja up to about level 550 or so before I pissed off some sysadmins at UICU and had to give it up. I commented a lot in =events, and they didn't think much of my opinions.

I've had the cyber1 terminal running, playing Avatar on that, but they seem to have gone dead. Sad.

Someone else must have used Prodigy... (2)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593717)

I used it back in the day, first in DOS on a 2400baud, then eventually in windows on a blazing fast 14.4. Yeah, a lot of it wasn't that great (especially when they charged per message for email - even to for messages to other prodigy members) but it was pretty good in some ways for the time.

My question though is this - does anyone else remember the games they had on there? I seem to recall a D&D based game on there, but I can't seem to find anything on it any more. I would have thought that someone else would have played it. I thought it was called Neverwinter Knights (which of course is a current name for a D&D game) but I could be wrong on that.

Re:Someone else must have used Prodigy... (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593773)

If you're talking about a text-based MMO around the 14.4 era, I played a couple on AOL around that time. They might well have been the same games on comparable services. I was particular to a caribbean island spy game from Simutronics called Modus Operandi.

They also had GemStone IV and DragonRealms on there as I recall, which were much closer to D&D.

Re:Someone else must have used Prodigy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593785)

There were many games that might fit. Legend of the Red Dragon (LoRD), Kannons and Katapults, Barren Realms Elite, etc.

Re:Someone else must have used Prodigy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594109)

Yea, I remember playing that game. I was in middle school in the Prodigy era, and loved playing that game (whatever it was). If I remember, it was a primitive style dungeon crawler not unlike neverwinter nights, or eye of the beholder but somehow it had its own very unique feel - maybe it was more whimsical or something, but the details kind of escape me. Whatever it was, it was some sort of maze/dungeon oriented adventure game.

Lesson for Gen Y? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593729)

There's many of us who were using BBSes and these services well before their teens, myself included. Just because you started late doesn't mean we all did!

Blast from the past (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593751)


Local BBS lists
0 day warez boards
Hackin ITT codes
ANSI art
The Draw
Borland C++
War dialing dicks at school, for hours
Xmodem, Ymodem, Zmodem, Kermet
WWIV, PCboard, C-Net BBS, Telegard
Damn that shit was slow
Press Play On Tape
Load "$",8

Never used the paid services other than once or twice out of curiosity.


Re:Blast from the past (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594037)

Wasn't it Load "$",8,1 ?

Too many false assumptions (1)

Tom Christiansen (54829) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593753)

The posted article has too many false assumptions in it to be anything like reasonable. It's trying to establish a false dichotomy. I've been on the Internet since the early 80s -- essentially, all my computing life -- and certainly never resorted to silly BBS systems or AOL/Prodigy abominations. Bletch!

Sure, there were times I had to dial into a terminal server, but I still connected directly to a nice friendly BSD Unix system on the real Internet. The firstish of which was what became known as Yes, we had an ARPANET IMP. Pesky little thing it was, too.

What category then do I fall into? Neither of the two misleadingly presented ones from the original article, that's for certain. The question is: how many others were in my camp? Pretty obviously the kinderwriter of the article never thought of people like us.

Compuserve (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593767)

Before 1996 and my family's acquisition of dialup internet (at $0.50 an hour!) my parents had access to Compuserve for several years. I remember using it many times on a 14.4K modem, eventually upgrading to a 28.8K as Compuserve began enabling internet access over their dialup connections.

Their services were replaced rapidly, even AOL with their numerous exclusives couldn't stave off the inevitable dominance (and infinitely greater flexibility) of the internet.

BBS, usenet, client to client, client to server (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593789)

I resemble this remark. I was downloading program I wrote in 1982 from a PDP-11-80 to a Xerox 820, then was using a BBS from then Xerox 820, from a IBM clone 286-10. Heck at the same era I was editing punch cards and submitting them for batch processing!!

As for BBS I was actually getting dates by going to physical BBS meetings. They weren't hot chicks, but they were smart chicks. Hi Darlene . . .


The Source? (4, Informative)

kallen3 (171792) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593797)

does anyone remember The Source? Where Ilearned about archie, gopher, telnet,finger,who, ftp and the like. I remember the first time I connected I went exploring on the source and realized that I was connecting to computers all over the world.


Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593835)

That charge by the minute or hour? THOSE WHORES!!! It was BBS or SLIP access to text based services all the way baby!

AppleCat 300baud modem (2)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593855)

AppleCat FTW. If you had the special daughterboard AND you were calling another AppleCat owner, you could get 1200 baud!

On the cusp. (1)

NalosLayor (958307) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593865)

I think I fit in with a lot of 20-something /.ers. Being born in the mid-80s, I remember a time before internet access was widely available, but I was also too young to ever get involved in the BBS scene, and my first internet experience was web access via lynx and a library account (although my first home access was ...AOL [briefly] a few years later).

And then there's those of us from ISCABBS (1)

RedHat Rocky (94208) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593885)

ISCABBS was where I spent a lot of time, pre-ISP, pre-browser.

And it still exists and yes, I still visit on a regular basis. (that's telnet to get there, kids!).

The good old days of 600+ simultaneous online users. Ah!

Today's forums are a lot harder to read.

Revisionism. (5, Insightful)

queazocotal (915608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593887)

There seems to be a general assumption by many that the internet was predestined to win out over these other pre-existing nets.

It wasn't.
Things like the much derided Al Gore 'invention of the internet' - he was instrumental in securing some funding for non-educational use.

If the existing services that were taking off when the internet came along from behind had gotten their acts together - and gotten for example inter-provider mail working, the internet in its present form may not have happened.

It could so easily have been that if you wanted to make a page to advertise your business, it wasn't a case of simply sign up to one of the many thousands of hosting providers - but three or four large companies dominate.

Set Up UUCP In the Late 80's (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593901)

Through uunet. I likened Compuserve and the others to the circles of Internet Hell. Compuserve users were fairly well informed and might actually escape to the Real Internet. AOL users were pretty bad but some of their more clueful ones might escape to Compuserve. Prodigy was the realm of the truly damned. I found myself at one point doing online OS/2 support for IBM. They were able to replicate the Compuserve and AOL forums to the internal network and send our posts back to those networks. Prodigy though... Urgh... You had to use the prodigy client, at some really crappy BPS. We had one lady who mostly did that, but I got stuck having to cover for her for a week when she went on vacation. It made my eyes bleed. And the end of the week I knew I had looked upon the damned. I didn't feel the need to try to save them though. I was just glad to be out of there.

Next month: The later years; running an ISDN connection to PSInet, and the class B address blocks they liked to give out when you joined their service.

My lawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593909)

Ahh the largest bbs in northern indiana. Those were the days.

Miss all those people. But you can't go back.

Monty Python's Flying Circus - "Four Yorkshiremen" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593923)

Aye, very passable, that, very passable bit of risotto.

Nothing like a good glass of Château de Chasselas, eh, Josiah?

You're right there, Obadiah.

Who'd have thought thirty year ago we'd all be sittin' here drinking Château de Chasselas, eh?

In them days we was glad to have the price of a cup o' tea.

A cup o' cold tea.

Without milk or sugar.

Or tea.

In a cracked cup, an' all.

Oh, we never had a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper.

The best we could manage was to suck on a piece of damp cloth.

But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.

Because we were poor. My old Dad used to say to me, "Money doesn't buy you happiness, son".

Aye, 'e was right.

Aye, 'e was.

I was happier then and I had nothin'. We used to live in this tiny old house with great big holes in the roof.

House! You were lucky to live in a house! We used to live in one room, all twenty-six of us, no furniture, 'alf the floor was missing, and we were all 'uddled together in one corner for fear of falling.

Eh, you were lucky to have a room! We used to have to live in t' corridor!

Oh, we used to dream of livin' in a corridor! Would ha' been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woke up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us! House? Huh.

Well, when I say 'house' it was only a hole in the ground covered by a sheet of tarpaulin, but it was a house to us.

We were evicted from our 'ole in the ground; we 'ad to go and live in a lake.

You were lucky to have a lake! There were a hundred and fifty of us living in t' shoebox in t' middle o' road.

Cardboard box?


You were lucky. We lived for three months in a paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six in the morning, clean the paper bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down t' mill, fourteen hours a day, week-in week-out, for sixpence a week, and when we got home our Dad would thrash us to sleep wi' his belt.

Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at six o'clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of 'ot gravel, work twenty hour day at mill for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would thrash us to sleep with a broken bottle, if we were lucky!

Well, of course, we had it tough. We used to 'ave to get up out of shoebox at twelve o'clock at night and lick road clean wit' tongue. We had two bits of cold gravel, worked twenty-four hours a day at mill for sixpence every four years, and when we got home our Dad would slice us in two wit' bread knife.

Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.

And you try and tell the young people of today that ..... they won't believe you.

They won't!

CBBS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593933)

Many moons ago I setup a system to run CBBS. It ran on an IMSAI with a Cromemco ZPU board, 16k of static ram and a couple of Wangco 8 inch floppies with an Intertec Super Brain as a terminal.

CBBS was written by a guy named Ward Christensen. He also made a client program called X-Modex to talk to CBBS. Another couple of guys named Randy Suess and Kieth Peterson did a lot of work on it too. Randy was in Chicago and Kieth was in Royal Oak with me.

This was setup in a computer store call Computer Mart of Royal Oak which later became Inacomp Computer Center. This was the real beginning of online services.

Later Ward setup a bigger operation in chicago but I can't remember the name.

Many years later I subscribed to a service called the Source. It was right after the Star Wars movie came out. As far as I can remember this was before AOL or Compuserve or GEnie.

But my memory is failing me now, that was a long time ago and I am getting old, NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!

CFN: (1)

Mhrmnhrm (263196) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593935)

I see this very early entry to the public Internet is sadly missing from the article. CFN ( provided message boards, IRC, USENet, MUDs/MOOs, and just about every other service provided by the fledgling Internet was there, including email (with gateways to FIDO, CIS, and a few others), to anybody with a modem, for free. The FreePort software was also published under (I believe) a 4-clause BSD license, giving rise to myriad offspring, some of which might still be around (though hopefully not running FreePort anymore).

Prodigy, AOL, "Computer Serve" (1)

toygeek (473120) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593965)

I had a friend who couldn't stop calling it "computer serve" instead of "Compuserve." But oh well.

I started personally in 1990 or 1991 with Prodigy- DXTH23B, here. It was on a 286/12 with 1MB RAM and an incredibly big 60MB hard drive. I even had VGA! I installed the modem myself, at 14 years old. I was so nervous because I didn't want to break our computer, that I was shaking! I got the modem in and then learned about IRQ's and COM ports. Those were the days! I remember being so excited when I could message my friends who used AOL and it didn't cost extra.

I remember being a young teenager asking a million questions about computers etc and getting great, solid answers. The SNR was much better back then.

Eventually I moved to AOL and BBS'ing. I was the first in my area to have 28.8kbps. I got them before they were released to the public through a friend who ran a warez bbs. The price was amazing, and in retrospect it probably fell off the back of a truck.

I even had a BBS of my own for about a week. I had my 486 all set up on Renegade IIRC. I even got the newspaper to print the number in the "technology" page on Mondays. And, they printed the wrong number. One person figured it out and called in. I gave up on BBS's, the Internet was taking off and I haven't looked back.

My first communications experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593973)

was with a Commodore VIC-20 and a 300 baud VICModem. I built a phone out of spare parts and an electronics kit so that I could easily switch between my telephone and the modem. Later got a 3K (yes, kilobytes) expansion cartridge, then moved on to a Commodore 64 and that's when the real fun began. Those were the days...

Kids nowadays take everything for granted. If we were forced back to the good-ole-days, all of the Facebook junkies wouldn't know what to do with themselves.

Compuserve (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39593991)

71660,2120. 300bd. Long distance and fee per minute to Compuserve. I had a $200+ phone bill back in the mid 80's. Not good. Not good at all.

Want to relive these days? (1)

gsgriffin (1195771) | more than 2 years ago | (#39593997)

Travel abroad!! I can't tell you how much is sucks to be traveling in a remote place in India right now and read this article. I'm from the States and have great cable ISP at home. For the past month of traveling, I've had to rely upon my awesome Android rooted phone as a mifi with a SIM card for India. I"m lucky to get up to 30kbps, but most of the time hang around 2 or 3 (in between the long 0kbps). Why talk about how slow things are, go experience it again like me!! :) You'll be glad you did...helps you appreciate even more what we have.

I never pine for the old days (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594001)

I never pine for the old days, when it comes to services and networking.
Data took forever to transmit, and was so damned proprietary. UGH.
I was always interested in computers, even before they were able to be used at home. During the times of Prodigy, CompuServe, & America Online (before they called themselves AOL), there was so much of a chance that this country was going to become a capitalistic fascist republic it was disgusting. People were being arrested all around during the BBS ages for simple crap... computer equipment kept by the cops for a year or more (for made-up reasons!)... everything you did, you had to be sure you had your I's dotted and your T's crossed...

The dotcom era may have brought a catalyst, but I'm glad those days are over. I learned a lot back then... the wrong ways.

Remember Delphi? (2)

Nexusone1984 (1813608) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594005)

I used Delphi and ran a BBS

Gen Y is not that young (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594007)

Excuse me I'm Gen Y, whatever your definition, and I had AOL, I even used Netzero *free Internet* to get porn after AOL started blocking it and warez in the chatrooms.

Sneakernet (2)

scottbomb (1290580) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594021)

Most people I knew didn't have any kind of online service in the mid-80s. It wasn't until 1987 that I met a friend who's dad had it and used it sparingly. CompuServe was just getting started and the ads looked cool in Compute! magazine but there was no way I wouldn't have been able to talk my parents into buying a modem after already talking them into the Commodore 64. One has to remember, a Commodore 64 and 1541 disk drive would set you back about $450. Adjusting for inflation, in today's dollars, that's roughly $867! Add to that, the only way one could access it would be through the phone lines - long distance - around 50 cents/min back then.

So, we bought blank floppies and used Fast Hack'em to copy warez. Hell yeah, those were the days.

I collect old computer ads. Remember 10 MB hard drives selling for $3400? You could buy a car for that.

Before 1991? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594041)

If memory serves, email and Gopher (before the text-based browser Lynx) became publicly available cca 1992.

library pr0n (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39594045)

I used a one line dialup to the local library to first access usenet. Had to use bincode to decipher the binaries and get just a couple of pictures. What a blast!

Today, of course, we sneer at speeds of 1 Megabit (1)

HeLLFiRe1151 (743468) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594067)

Until this past Tuesday, that was the speed I was stuck at. Now I'm flying @ 2.5. Yay.

I had AOL right up to when DSL came to my area (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594073)

I had AOL right up to when DSL came to my area

Get off my lawn! (2)

ArcadeNut (85398) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594089)

I've been on COMPUSERVE and Genie at 300 Baud. I wrote my own BBS software for the C64 (and I still have the Source code and Data files!), then I wrote one for the Atari ST. Somewhere around 1990 I got on the Internet. That was a PITA back then... having to install software in Windows just to connect.

I miss those days a little, except for the speed. I'll take my 60Mbit Connection over 300 Baud any day :)

Long Live the Punter Protocol! Transferring 170K in 30 minutes!

Absolutely... (1)

Higgins_Boson (2569429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594091)

...miss dialing into the local BBS.

I am pretty sure this is a redundant post. Almost as sure as I am that I don't give a fuck about it being redundant, but yeah... I miss the BBS times.

All the real action was on BBSes. (5, Insightful)

conspirator23 (207097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594095)

The REAL prototype for today's Internet can be found on the single-line, amateur, free Bulletin Board Systems of that era. You won't find anything comparable to the steaming, frothing orgy of human id we have today in the archives of those online services. European software piracy boards? Check. White supremacists? Check. Crappy low-fi porn? Check. Illegal seizures by federal authorities? Check. The hijacking of discussions by socially maladjusted teenage boys? Check? The ham radio loving middle-aged pedos who stalked them? Check.

The Screen Name Legacy (1)

paleo2002 (1079697) | more than 2 years ago | (#39594099)

The first teacher I ever had who used email was my freshman HS algebra teacher. She used Compuserve so her email address was some sort of random number sequence. Prodigy and AOL were far superior because they encouraged you to pick a goofy nickname to use while online - your screen name. Because, hey, who knew this internet thing would become so serious?

People are still using stupid screen names for primary email. I get to see a lot as a teacher. There are too many female students out there, for example, with emails including some variation on "juicy". My all time favorite, though, was a student whose email address was "SmurfKiller" with some additional numbers. There must be a lot of smurf killers out there . . .
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