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The original CompuServe service, first offered in 1979, was shut down this past week by its current owner, AOL. The service, which provided its users with addresses such as 73402,3633 and was the first major online service, had seen the number of users dwindle in recent years. At its height, the service boasted about having over half a million users simultaneously on line. Many innovations we now take for granted, from online travel (Eaasy Sabre), online shopping, online stock quotations, and global weather forecasts, just to name a few, were standard fare on CompuServe in the 1980s.

CompuServe users will be able to use their existing CompuServe Classic (as the service was renamed) addresses at no charge via a new e-mail system, but the software that the service was built on, along with all the features supported by that software, from forums for virtually every topic and profession known to man to members’ Ourworld Web pages, has been shut down. Indeed, the current version of the service’s client software, CompuServe for Windows NT 4.0.2, dates back to 1999.




  1. MikeGunn says:

    I’ll never forget my 300 baud modem and marveling at how fast the text appeared on the screen hooked up to my TV with my C64.

    72717,3154 says goodbyeto CompuServe and thanks for turning me into a geek.

  2. jescott418 says:

    What a quiet death. But then again AOL the owner is not too far behind.
    I remember using compuserve on a commodore 64 year ago. I cannot believe that was cutting edge at one time. Then of course AOL came into play. I guess it has done pretty well though considering its just now gone.

  3. JimD says:

    Both CompuServe and AOL had the wrong business model – NOT FREE !!! CompuServe was $6 per hour plus connect time and AOL would sign you up and NEVER LET YOU QUIT THE SERVICE (AND AUTOMATIC CHARGES TO YOUR CREDIT CARD !!!) – MAROONS !!!

  4. Chris1 says:

    I was a member of “The Source” before I was a member of Compuserve, but back then, it was known as “Micronet.” (Compuserve eventually bought out The Source) These were old guard timesharing companies with an idea that by offering very reduced rates during their off peak hours that they could market to individuals. Eventually desktop systems with more power than mainframes killed off the primary business, and the public services became primary.

    I ultimately became a sysop of a forum on Compuserve. Compuserve created the first real one stop shopping place for email (before internet email) and information of all types.

    But Compuserve made the mistake of resisting change. I can tell you that those of us involved were shouting warnings to management about what was going to happen (Al Gore and others opening the internet to commercialism) and that they had to abandon the hourly fee model. They didn’t listen. They grudgingly opened up to POP3 email. Once the internet caught on, it was a matter of time before such services died off. AOL survived largely by being “internet for dummies” and using proxy servers to keep people out of trouble. How much longer will they survive? Who knows.

    I maintained a classic account because it gave me world wide access to UUNET which I used a few times. Nowadays, with wi-fi everywhere, it isn’t really worth it anymore (assuming the access is still there).

    It was a really fun time to be on line. We were all breaking new ground! I met some people there in chat that I still consider friends to this day. Back then, chat rooms were safe because only computer nerds were there.

    Yes people were on line with TRS-80s, Apple IIs, and assorted cp/m machines. And then eventually the IBM pc came along! It was all text based, so all you needed was a dial-up connection.

    Bye bye old friend.

    Chris

  5. BigBoyBC says:

    I thought CompuServe had gone years ago. I remember using my Atari 800 with a Hayes 300 baud modem on CompuServe.

    Had some good times on that service, good memories.

  6. AdmFubar says:

    aahhh good old Compu$crew… overcharging at $6 an hour..
    what more could ya ask for.. Used to play a space exploration/battle game there…
    of course i was only a captain then (wink) 🙂

  7. Eideard says:

    Sigh. Nostalgia.

    71236,1416

  8. Greg Allen says:

    I used Compuserve a lot for work but, for personal use, I preferred “GEnie” and “FidoNet” — remember those?

    I still miss FidoNet a little. It had a local flavor to it that was mostly lost with the Internet and is only now coming back with social networking.

  9. TheCommodore says:

    I used both CompuServe and Delphi way back in my TI-994A days. The costs didn’t seem exorbitant back then because there wasn’t much competition (especially when you lived in the boonies) and CompuServe’s network served more markets than anyone else. (This is why AOL bought them out). And they had “Internet mail” before AOL or Delphi did, so it “scaled” with the newer platforms.

    Sad to see it go, but like everyone else, I’m surprised it hadn’t gone earlier.

  10. Duffy says:

    Chris1, boy did you start the memories start flowing. I, too, was a sysop on “The Source” right up to the end, when they were “acquired” by CI$(and the bitterness of THAT has not ever abated).

    I tried CI$ but abandoned it. Ended up on BIX for a while, working on a forum there.

    I agree that the business model was wrong once the Internet opened up. Owell, que sera sera.

  11. Faxon says:

    It was a thrill to be “connected” to a source of real information on my Apple II+ with an amber NTSC monitor and Hayes 300baud modem also. I popped for the 80 column card, too!. It was great. I also, at the same time, was using the Apple for Packet Radio on 2 meters, and that was even better! And free! I think I only dabbled on Compuserve, since seemed pricey to me, and Packet was free, and I had the sense that I was actually doing it by myself. Which I was. AOL always seemed to suck as far as I was concerned, and I never used it. I started with SlipNet years ago, when Netscape came along, with a 14.4 modem on a black and white 50mhz Thinkpad and a used 14 inch color monitor I picked up from work.

  12. WmDE says:

    71555,1144 here.

    Joined Compuserve in 1978-79. Logged on with my Heathkit H8. Kept the account a lot longer than I needed it.

    Another service I liked was PC Pursuit. It provided no content. It just provided access to an “outdial” modem in twelve cities around the US for thirty bucks a month. One of those cities was Denver. There was a free bbs on the University of Denver that provided Internet access for free. Using PC Pursuit I was able access the bbs from coastal Georgia. The speed was 2400 baud.

    The bbs is no longer associated with the university but it is still there and the home of my oldest Internet email address, welkins@nyx.net.

    http://nyx.net or telnet nyx.net

  13. Wildsoution says:

    70406,250 Here.

    Even though I have not thought about, or used CIS in many years, it was my “first”. I am a bit saddend hear abouts it’s demise.
    I fondly remember many hours spent in forums, and just exploring UUNET and making friends in the chatrooms. RIP CIS!

  14. Nimby says:

    A Northgate computer running CP/M and the GEM graphical interface on a green phosphor monitor! 300 baud modem sitting there flashing mystery lights at me and text scrolling so slowly on the screen you could go take a leak and not miss anything. Bulletin Boards that served as discussion arenas (a la DU) and as email!

    Nothing worked very well. We all used software redialers to keep calling until we got a connection.

    Thank you CompuServe. You won’t be missed but you were an important part of my life.

  15. Thomas says:

    Ah, I remember CompuServe. I really did not have much use for most of its services as I came from the BBS world where I already had access to forums and email. However, I got a CompuServe account for one reason: all of the Microsoft material was originally on CompuServe only. It was a wealth of information that gave me a significant competitive advantage over most consultants of the day.

    I did use Sabre once or twice but it was never as thorough as a travel agent. Today, however, there isn’t much use left for travel agents.

    The day that Microsoft moved/copied its material to the Internet was the day I knew that CompuServe’s days were numbered. Frankly, I was shocked it still existed.

  16. WmDE says:

    Guess what Ed! With nyx.net you really do have to have the www soooooo

    http://tinyurl.com/l55sob

  17. Its interesting
    Compuserve was the first sort of readily available large scale , more than your neighborhood city area commercial service
    A lot of people got started and realized the power of the communications and information availability via compuserve
    It got you started but you soon realized it was expensive and added up quickly
    It was on dial up , it was mainly text with some pull down windows ( windows 3.1) program from
    Cserve called C.I.S. ( Compuserve Information System I guess)
    There were automated programs to dial into the forums of you choice , get headers of new messages , you would then select offline and call back to retrieve ( more $ to add up)
    However when the internet came – the comparison of actually being to interact with a computer around the world blew away Cserve
    However it must be noted that Compuserve got a lot of people started, showed the availability of information sources and pioneered availability of commercial service to private people online
    It also demonstrated that if you had a question or a problem that there was someone half way around the world with expertise who would be simply willing to help you out – out of the goodness of their heart
    Interestingly just like at AOL ( later ) upper management was clueless
    While AOL was giving start up disks ( repeatedly) to anyone who was breathing to get them hooked , and AOL in its ads always had the grandparent spouting ” I use it to talk to my grandchildren by email ” , and always the 14 year old virgin in her bedroom , Cserve as I recall had totally useless ads
    I ad was how a guy met a girl half way around the world and I guess got laid

  18. MoreGruelPlease says:

    At the time, even though it cost money, it was worth it.

    Unfortunately, like a lot of businesses, the management didn’t understand the need to adjust to the changing times and respond to competition from new business models and new technologies. Very sad.

  19. MoreGruelPlease says:

    At the time, even though it cost some money, it was worth it.

    Unfortunately, like a lot of businesses, the management didn’t understand the need to adjust to the changing times and respond to competition from new business models and new technologies.

    Very sad, because conceptually they were way, way ahead of the curve.

  20. Martin says:

    Lot’s of good memories about Compuserve. I remember using it to convert critical files from my Apple //e’s format to my first Windows PC’s format. I’d mail the file from the Apple and retrieve it with my new PC. Not the most elegant solution but it was effective and got the job done.

  21. daav0 says:

    76711,2314 (the seventy six prefix designated me both a wizop and an overheaded account)

    I ran a number of forums (fori?) on Ci$, including the Norton Antivirus Forum, the McAfee AV forum, and the Cybermedia forum. These were great for tech support because a user could look at the existing thread and figure out their answer without need to be answered individually. Compuserve was the gold standard for threaded conversation.

    To sysop on CI$ meant learning how to navigate in TOPS 10, the world’s most abstruse operating system! I still own my original gray binder Compuserve manual, and my sysops manual, both printed in the mid eighties.

    AOL (where I was an area producer) was better at group chat. I still maintain my AOL account because of the large number of online AA meetings (which I can attend while travelling, no lie! sixteen meetings per day)

    AOL was (and still is, in part) written in a proprietary language known as RAINMAN. This is nothing at all like any markup language you have ever seen, and is not about making pages or links or views, but rather about publishing an online service. Go figure.

    Support via the internet is much more difficult. Email support automation comes with many many problems.

    CIS was better for providing tech support, but nobody would put up today with being a number.

    Now let’s talk about hte WELL…

  22. Mike Strong says:

    Is this for sure? I checked Google tech news and found numbers of articles on the end of Compuserve. On the other hand, maybe someone should tell Compuserve’s web monkeys?

    I just went to “compuserve.com” (redirect goes to: http://webcenters.netscape.compuserve.com/menu/default.jsp) and they still have a front page.

    There is no announcement saying they are ending and they still have the sign-up page with a signup form at the “$17.95” a month rate. And the news and floating announcements are up-to-date events and news.

  23. James Hill Knows More Than You says:

    All of these posts, and I have to state the obvious.

    Q-Link > CompuServe

  24. Ken S says:

    Compuserve actually made the big mistake back in the early 80s when it refused to cut a deal with Commodore and be included with every machine. AOL (Quantum Computer Services) took the opportunity and less than a decade later purchased the CompuServe for pennies.
    If I remember correctly CIS was originally owned by H&R Block and ran on their excess computer capacity…charging a large price during primetime and more affordable rates after 6PM (ET) (Q-Link was only open after 6PM).
    It was a very small industry, but much of what people depend on today (email, instant messaging, online music, news, weather, “blogging”, sports, fantasy games, online gaming, forums, auctions) started back then. The Source, PlayNet, PeopleLink, CompuServe, Delphi, Q-Link, Viewtron and a couple of years later, Prodigy all played a large part in the beginning of the online industry. Most importantly, it was the beginning and understanding of online communities.
    RIP CompuServe

    Ken
    74125,167
    TheRef (Q-Link)

  25. KneeJerk Optimist says:

    Ah yes, my old green-screen long gone
    XP box, dumb old DOS, modem phone
    Late nights, new thing, contentious posts
    Typing text, watching next for flaming roasts
    Moved on, but just couldn’t get my fill
    Ranting still, forgot my pill
    Found a new venue
    On places like DU

    Ah well, what the hell were we fighting for?
    Oh, but those days of yore…

  26. Uncle Patso says:

    Oh, man, what was the name of that terminal program for the C-64? I used it to call all my favorite local BBSs as well as CIS. As late as the early-to-mid ’90s, as newsletter editor for my computer user group, I could get lots of scoops and keep up with the breaking international news on the Forums (and download cool fonts!). It was great for tech support when there would often not be a single person in your entire town or city who knew the answer to your question. Heck, in those days, with all the different systems, there might only be a few dozen people in the entire world who could answer your question. And it was very informative, even educational, to talk to people from around the world.

    I remember 300 baud modems, where you could easily keep up with the text as it came over the line. Once 1200 came along, you had to pay attention to paging, or capture everything to read later. We used to go through the thread headers on the discussion boards of our favorite SF shows, pick out the likely ones, log back on and capture all those messages and spend an hour or two reading them. Sometimes (rarely) we’d log back on afterward to reply to a few. Six dollars an hour doesn’t sound like much when you’re talking about, say long distance or cell usage (ten cents a minute), but consider how many hours a week you spend online right now — multiply that by six, then multiply that by 4.33 to get the montly and you’ve got a car payment! Or a house payment! So we had to be careful. (More than once I gasped when opening the bill.)

    R.I.P., CIS Classic!

    74246,1077 (I’m amazed — it took no time to remember — as soon as I saw the story header, there it came, unbidden. I guess if you type something like that enough times, it _sticks_.)

  27. cheese says:

    Wow, I’d have to fire up my old Zenith PC to find my Computserve ID. I still remember my password, though.

    I always wondered when this day would come… I saw the writing on the wall when we jumped ship to this new and promising service that had a $20/mo flat rate. It was of course Prodigy. My days of writing automated scripts to download, upload, and send/retrieve mail using the least amount of time to be billed for were finally over. I’m surprised it made it this long.

    I still think AOL ruined the internet. 🙂

  28. Herbert Highstone says:

    All these comments make me feel like the Ancient Mariner! I’m still using Compuserve 2000 and I usually get a connection at 45,000 byte/sec which is fast enough to do quite a lot of things. Naturally I don’t try to download movies! But I can still do one heck of a lot of shopping via Amazon. Having a telephone land line is also extremely retro, isn’t it? Herbie in Oakland CA


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