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CompuServe Classic, a relic of the dial-up days, finally bites the dust

By Matthew Shaer / July 6, 2009

Those were the days: In this 1996 photo, Richard Brown, CEO of CompuServe, hands out free subway tokens and a packet containing Open Market Express Software to subway riders in New York. The original caption for this photo noted that, 'CompuServe and Open Market Inc. are creating new software to make it easy to link up with online service and the Internet.' As of July 1, CompuServe Classic has been put to pasture.

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Remember sitting in your family's living room, craning your ear to the tower of an overpriced PC, waiting for the dial-up connection to commence? Remember missed connections, busy lines, and the squeak and wail of a computer locating – through the telephone wires! – the magical thing known as the World Wide Web?

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Remember chat rooms?

Yeah, us too. But all good things come to an end. America Online starts giving out AIM for free; dial-up loses out to high-speed cable connections; and CompuServe Classic, the pioneering Internet service provider from the '90s, has finally and truly bit the dust.

"After many years of providing online services, we regret to inform you that as of June 30, 2009 the CompuServe Classic service will no longer operate as an Internet Service Provider," CompuServe, which is now owned by AOL, wrote in a letter to customers this spring. "We hope this does not cause you an inconvenience."

The shut-down was effective as of July 1, forcing remaining customers to switch over to CompuServe 2000, which remains active.

Mourning a fallen friend

Across the blogosphere, many former users have lamented the loss of the service. "Long before social networks like Facebook and Twitter enabled us to keep in touch with each other," Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols of Computerworld writes, "many of us were talking with each other all the time on CompuServe's Forums. To this day, I think CIS' (CompuServe Internet Service) Forums were the best online discussion areas I ever had the pleasure of using."

In a mock obituary, CNET's Tom Krazit announced that "CompuServe Classic, the initial on-ramp to the information superhighway for a generation of Americans, has died. It was 30 years old." Meanwhile, in one CompuServe discussion forum, a group of former users have gathered to say goodbye to a trusted service. Here's one Classic aficionado:

Not too many friendships last 27 years. Started out with a Radio Shack 300 Baud keyboard hooked to a TV. Micronet was the name of CIS. One could write Basic programs on it. I will miss the cheery voice when I turn it on.

Others are less nostalgic. "Goodbye, CompuServe! (We thought you already died)," is the headline over at Ars Technica. "It comes as no surprise [that] AOL decided finally to close the doors on CompuServe this month. In fact, it's surprising that CompuServe managed to stay alive for this long," Jacqui Cheng jokes. "Did anyone still use it in 2009? (If you did, please tell us why in the comments!)"

As a Yahoo blogger notes, most folks probably kept around CompuServe Classic only as a back-up, in case their dial-up connection failed:

Who cries for CompuServe? Probably not a terribly large number of people. No official figures are available, but the number of people willing to pay $10 to $20 a month for a few chat rooms and material that's otherwise available for free via any web browser has probably become extremely small.

Alas, poor CompuServe. We knew ye well.

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Were you a CompuServe Classic user? Share your memories in the comments section, or at @CSMHorizonsBlog.

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