CompuServe provided a less nerdy alternative to BBS systems, making it easier for investors, gamers and families to connect to services and meet others online. The company charged a whopping $5 an hour, which didn’t include the telephone line, by the way. When AOL came along in 1991 with lower prices, followed soon after by the internet, it was the start of a long descent for CompuServe. Its parent, H&R Block, sold it to AOL in 1998 for what probably seemed then like all the money, $1.2 billion.
After AOL bought CompuServe, it renamed it to WorldCom Advanced Networks. That division eventually purchased the MCI telecommunications group and, after a bankruptcy, was renamed MCI. Verizon, the parent of Oath and AOL, eventually acquired MCI, completing a weird circle of old-school tech acquisitions.
When it shut down AIM, Oath VP of communications Michael Albers told Engadget that “it ignited a cultural shift … [but] the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed.” Obviously, that applies in spades to CompuServe, a much older technology.
While much reduced from their glory days, the forums still have an active user community which is obviously dismayed by the news. “I’m in the stunned-and-disbelieving phase, which will no doubt last a while,” said one member. So, if you’re old enough to remember the squeal of a 1,200 baud modem, pour one out for another deceased technology.