CompuServe Classic, the online service that provided the first gateway to the online world for a lot of us middle-aged folks, has been shut down.
I thought it was already dead. I was among those that used the 30-year-old service to get online, way back in the early 1990s. For a few years, it was my link to email, games, web sites and online friends. I switched to America OnLine, before it became AOL. But I share an irrational soft spot for CompuServe in my heart, like other old codgers out there. CompuServe rose to prominence in the days of dial-up, when it took such a long time to get anything done online that you really had to want to do it.
Those were the days when you had to wait such a long time for replies to email, or to send messages, that you had more time to think of what to say. I don’t miss those long waiting times, but I think we could all benefit from more reflection on what we write to others. CompuServe is more roadkill on the information highway and a warning to others who may end up like it.
AOL, which owns CompuServe, said today that it was shutting down the dial-up service in a message to subscribers over the weekend. The remaining customers have been asked to move to a newer version, CompuServe 2000. You could chalk CompuServe down as one of the companies that fumbled the future. Just like Xerox, which invented most of the things related to the personal computer and then watched as Apple and IBM made real businesses out of them.
CompuServe was one of those companies that should have been Google or Yahoo. It was introduced in 1979. When the World Wide Web came along in the 1990s, CompuServe stayed with its “walled garden” approach. CompuServe went into a long decline and was eventually purchased in 1997 by AOL, which managed to make the leap to the web, if not perfectly, then at least more nimbly than CompuServe. By 1993, I had defected to a series of web browsers and corporate emails. Years later, I’ve finally settled upon Gmail.