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America Online

Glory Days at AOL 190

Isaac-Lew writes "Found this article at the Washington Post about the wheeling and dealing at AOL back in the good old days (the 1990s)."
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Glory Days at AOL

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  • by wo1verin3 ( 473094 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @06:48PM (#6196206) Homepage
    When the hell did they reach glory?

    In fact, I didn't even know they've reached tolerable!
  • Ah yes.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by cageyjames ( 642932 ) * on Friday June 13, 2003 @06:48PM (#6196207)
    Those were the glory days. A new floppy disk in the mail every week. Unlike those crappy cd-roms in tins we get now. I mean what the heck do we do with them.
  • Found this article at the Washington Post about the wheeling and dealing at AOL back in the good old days (the 1990s).

    ~s/Great/Non/g

  • by Radi-0-head ( 261712 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @06:50PM (#6196221)
    In 1998, AOL chairman Steve Case and his wife, Jean, gave over $8 million to a Christian school that, according to its own Web site, is a division of a virulently anti-gay church that seeks to "cure" homosexuals.

    I guess this is why there are no more glory holes at AOL.
    • It's better than praying for AOL stock to go up. Man, there's no way I'd stay silent during that... well, blasphemy! I'll risk my job!
    • Re:Glory Holes? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And what is wrong about that? The way you describe the church ("virulently anti-gay") conjures up a negative image, damning them from the start.

      Look, people have a right to believe that homesexuality is wrong. Christians believe homosexuality is a sin, just like having sex with anyone other than your wife is a sin, just like lying is a sin.
      • The way you describe the church ("virulently anti-gay") conjures up a negative image, damning them from the start.

        Surely this only "damns them from the start" if you think being "virulently anti-gay" is a bad thing...
      • And this is why Christianity sucks. It makes people think that being uselessly judgemental fuckwits is acceptable behaviour.
  • Deification (Score:5, Funny)

    by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @06:51PM (#6196234) Homepage
    David Colburn's stature at AOL grew to such epic proportions that he earned a nickname: God.

    Hey. That's reserved for sysadmins.
    • Hey I use AOL, what's a sysadmin?
    • David Colburn's stature at AOL grew to such epic proportions that he earned a nickname: God.
      Hey. That's reserved for sysadmins.

      Not so. According to the infamous job description sheet:
      http://neil.franklin.ch/Jokes_and_Fun/Find_Your_R o le.html

      (there are many versions of that sheet, with anything from executive secretaries to programmers to users being the ultimate end-point. Having dealt with executive secretaries, they're not far off the mark, they wield the most amazing power- and abuse it handily

  • Glory days (Score:4, Funny)

    by PD ( 9577 ) * <slashdotlinux@pdrap.org> on Friday June 13, 2003 @06:55PM (#6196257) Homepage Journal
    AOL never had glory. Glory was when Usenet had never seen a "me too", and barely had a dozen examples of the extremely annoying "LOL" or "ROTFLMAO".

    AOL is to computer culture what Little Boy was to Hiroshima.
    • what, you don't like september [mcgill.ca]? but halloween's right around the corner!
    • Re:Glory days (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LucidityZero ( 602202 ) <sometimesitsalex ... m ['gma' in gap]> on Friday June 13, 2003 @07:04PM (#6196311) Homepage
      AOL is to computer culture what Little Boy was to Hiroshima.

      Oh, come on! I hear stuff like this constantly, and it's just complete and total BS.

      Sure, I kinda miss the days when "The Internet" was "our" thing. But you have to realize that is already over. So stop dwelling on it.

      In the mean time, the Internet-boom happened. And overall this has been a good thing. It was provided us with wonderful conveniences (like web-retailers), wonderful innovations (like Java), wonderful social impact (Instant Messaging and being able to email even your grandparents in Europe), and holds in store plenty of new possibilities. We have IPv6 around the corner, imbedded systems are popping up everywhere, and wireless technologies are ushering in a whole new era of connectivity.

      Without companies like AOL, we may have never seen the explosion that we have seen, and concepts that we now take for granted that enrich our lives every day may have never seen light.

      We all get nostalgic sometimes, but don't go belitteling a company for "ruining" the internet as you are attempting to imply, when they may very well have been one of the most important players period in the construction of what many of us now base much of our lives around.
      • by zogger ( 617870 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @07:22PM (#6196396) Homepage Journal
        Well, I never! I'm upset since you young guys hijacked television..

        err...wait

        no...you can have it, changed me mind.. keep on hijacking it lads! Used to be we had one fuzzy channel that only ran to 10 or 11 or midnight, then went off the air and showed nifty test patterns, and programs that mostly sucked, now we have hundreds of programs that mostly suck! Now THAT's tech progress!

        Not!

        Radio! errr... no... wait......

        Newspapers! ...rats..... hmmmm

        Movies!....uhhh... nooo.... hmmmmmm

        Girls! There ya go, still exactly the same as the "good old" days! And now with even *less* clothes!
        • And now you can definitely tell that the internet has improved the world. Before the internet, the geeks of the world (now, collectively known as slashdot) wouldn't have even known about the last item. Quality sites such as www.hooters.dk have definitely improved our lives!
      • You know you have a point AOL didnt "ruin" the internet. AOL's users did
      • Re:Glory days (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @09:11PM (#6196876) Journal
        I think you missed the intent of the parent post, and the original Hiroshima analogy was rather appropriate...

        It's not so much that AOL made the internet popular (as in a lot of people use it), it's that it made it 'popular' (as in the hip and trendy thing to do). This created a whole (and by now, several) internet-aware but still functionally illiterate people.

        Specifically: "netspeak"

        Now, if you're not typing in your native language, even some severe deviations in grammar and spelling are forgivable. Personally speaking, if I can understand what you're trying to say then that's good enough. This also applies to native speakers who make the occasional "topy" and spelling error (expecting everyone to run their text through spell and grammar check every time just isn't reasonable!)

        However, since the internet became "popular" you have an entire culture of people who can't use punctuation like commas and periods, proper capitalization, can't (or won't?) use full words, (Though some "alternative spelings" are commonly acceptable - I can't see, for example, how "u" is a suitable replacement for "you"...), can't be bothered to proofread what they type (even a quick glance), and at worst can't even form coherent thoughts.

        So it's not that there are more people are using the internet - that's a very good thing - it's that far too many of them can't understand why they get kicked out of chatrooms and forums for typing "hi a/s/l plz how r u k 10x lololol!!!1! u r gay ass i h4><0r j00"

        =Smidge=
        "I really like it when a site calls it a 'Message Board' instead of 'Forum'. 'Forum' suggests some semblence of order, respect and maturity." -braedan51
        • Re:Glory days (Score:3, Insightful)

          It's not so much that AOL made the internet popular (as in a lot of people use it), it's that it made it 'popular' (as in the hip and trendy thing to do). This created a whole (and by now, several) internet-aware but still functionally illiterate people.

          This is another thing to upsets me. People that get so very upset about any sort of evolution of language.

          Last time I checked, the point of language was to convey thoughts. Does it really make any difference what so ever how this is accomplished if it's

          • "I would be a more efficient person if I always used "u" instead of "you""

            Not really. Although you would type faster, you would make it much harder to parse (both from a program perspective and a human perspective). There are many times when it is truely incomprehensible.
            However, I've grown to just silenty dislike it rather than actually say something, so long as the person is nice enough (eg, if someone is talking trash in a game of counterstrike, I'm not above saying "atleast I can spell 'you'").
            What rea
      • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) * on Friday June 13, 2003 @11:55PM (#6197490)
        >In the mean time, the Internet-boom happened.

        Yet, dial-up at that time could be had for 5.95 or if there wasn't much competition in your neighborhood at the time 9.95 or so while AOL wanted double that. AOL does not equal the internet-boom. They're an ISP second and a content/service provider first.

        From my experience, cheap local dial-ups helped get most of the non-techies on the net a lot more than AOL and its other proprietary cousins. These non-techies fired up a browser and were off - excitied by the prospect of this web thing and email, while AOL people safely hid in their controlled chat-rooms and paid per-minute charges.

        Sure the non-AOLers had to actually spend five minutes talking to tech-support to setup their modems and email clients but at least they learned a little about how their computers and modems worked, as opposed to being stuck with some proprietary software that didnt really deliver the goods regarding easy easy use until much later versions.

        Now, these non-techies are somewhat savvy tech consumers and surprisingly handy with a computer and have long since moved on to broadband, while the AOL people I remember are still there on a beater 486 and still getting ripped off.

        Not exactly a scientific study, but lets not overestimate AOL's influence. Those mysterious "http" things on movie commercials, that Netscape thing people keep talking about, and not having an answer to the question "Whats your email address" were probably the biggest factors in getting people online, not a voice saying, "You've got mail!"
    • Ha!

      AOL is to computer culture what Little Boy was to Hiroshima.

      Actually, AOL was to the Internet what Fat Man was to Little Boy:

      1. Second.
      2. Slightly more powerful.
      3. Unnecessary.

      -----

  • by Radi-0-head ( 261712 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @06:56PM (#6196262)
    Which are always nice for homebrew DVDs...

    AOL needs to back off on the marketing. I think everyone knows who they are by now.
    • Obviously AOL is misplacing their resources. They're falling way behind the version war - remember how revolutionary 8 is compaired to 7, or hah hah... I laugh at the thought _6_? Hell emacs is in the 20s and I'd sure as hell rather use emacs (tough sell considering I'm a vi(m) user). AOL needs to move on to version 15 or so to totally blow away MSN. They can then add super championship turbo edition for power users, maybe give redhat kernel versions a run for their money.
      • About 3 years ago in Northern VA I saw a Honda with a license plate that said "AOL 50" with a AOL bracket around it. A quick check of the VA DMV plate selector [state.va.us] shows that it is available again but "AOL 80" is taken, HAHAHAHA. I tried "ME TOO" but it's taken also. If you truely have no social life and you're quick you can probably get lifetime moderator by grabbing "VA LINX"
    • I think they should continue with the marketing, I really like those cases. They're much better than the snapper-style crap cases WB sells with their DVDs (Matrix, Animatrix). I do hate peeling off that big-ass sticker AOL puts on the back of their DVD cases, though. :(
    • You don't understand marketing.

      The point isn't that everyone knows who they are...AOL is aware that goal was acheived.

      They don't want anyone to forget.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 13, 2003 @06:57PM (#6196273)
    Ah, the glory days of AOL. The slowness. The service drops. The browser functionality that was always just a generation behind what non-idiots were using. Those were the days...

    *weeps*
    • Ah, the glory days of AOL. The slowness. The service drops. The browser functionality that was always just a generation behind what non-idiots were using. Those were the days...

      Yesterday?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    i've been waiting for 3 weeks now to hear if i have a job with them... i've gotten the thumbs up, but it's caught up in "finance"...

    bleh.
  • I for one (Score:2, Insightful)

    dont consider the days of inflated prices, wasteful spending and endless accounting shenanigans and lies the glory days. And don't think AOL didn't do it. HealthSouth/Freddie Mac are the tip of a putrid iceberg. We don't even know how much thievery happened back then, but it wasn't honest and we are paying for it now and will be for a long time to come.
  • by Goalie_Ca ( 584234 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @07:01PM (#6196296)
    back in the good old days (the 1990s)."

    Kids these days are spoiled. Back in the good 'ol days when we all had 14.4 modems and we had to walk fifty miles in snow and ice just to pick it up. If we wanted to talk on the phone, tough luck!
    Too bad today's internet sucks!
    • 14.4? Man, 300 baud was all we had... the perfect speed to read text as it came across the wire!

      MadCow.
    • by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @07:09PM (#6196337) Homepage
      Back in the good 'ol days when we all had 14.4 modems and we had to walk fifty miles in snow and ice just to pick it up.

      Pfeh. We had to manually carry our packets through the snow and hand-deliver them to the other computer(s). Didn't even have "baud."
      • Back in the good 'ol days when we all had 14.4 modems and we had to walk fifty miles in snow and ice just to pick it up.

        Pfeh. We had to manually carry our packets through the snow and hand-deliver them to the other computer(s). Didn't even have "baud."

        Pfeh. You had hands!?

    • Re:Back in the days (Score:2, Informative)

      by zoobaby ( 583075 )
      " Kids these days are spoiled. Back in the good 'ol days when we all had 14.4 modems and we had to walk fifty miles in snow and ice just to pick it up. If we wanted to talk on the phone, tough luck! Too bad today's internet sucks!" Ha...hell my first modem was a 900...I thought that screamed at the time. I remember upgrading to 14.4 and thinking it was the shiznit. There will be others who remember having a 300 modem. Before too many people bag on AOL, they did do something right. They gave us unlimite
    • Kids these days are spoiled. Back in the good 'ol days when we all had 14.4 modems and we had to walk fifty miles in snow and ice just to pick it up. If we wanted to talk on the phone, tough luck!

      14.4 modems! Why back in my day we had 1200 baud modems, and it was a shame too, because telephones hadn't even been invented yet. Just the thought of the whole family huddling around the 8086 for warmth during the depression days... brings a tear to me old eye...

    • by thynk ( 653762 )
      Kids these days are spoiled. Back in the good 'ol days when we all had 14.4 modems and we had to walk fifty miles in snow and ice just to pick it up. If we wanted to talk on the phone, tough luck!

      BAH! You yourself was spoiled! I remember hooking up to a BBS at 300baud, and my first AOL experience was on a 1200baud modem. And this was HIGH tech stuff! I remember using my 720k 5.25" floppy to store ALL my programs on, and looking at the BIG 8" floppies that fit the machine in the corner, thinking - wow
      • by vanyel ( 28049 ) * on Friday June 13, 2003 @07:46PM (#6196500) Journal
        BAH! You yourself was spoiled! I remember hooking up to a BBS at 300baud

        300 Baud? Talk about spoiled. That was probably on a CRT too!

        We used to love the comforting sounds of a 110 baud TeleType. Ch-Thump! Ch-Thump! The Bzzzt Bzzzt Bzzzt of the 300 baud dot matrix version just wasn't quite the same, and you couldn't make it sound like a slot machine by sending a bunch of nulls to it: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Thump! Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Thump! Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Thump! Ding! Ding! Ding!

        Playing music and printing pictures on the line printer --- now those were the days!
        • Playing music and printing pictures on the line printer --- now those were the days!

          I remember doing some of that on a LP too. Infact - our computer lab was decorated with the several ASCII pictures of AL and the NCC-1701. Around Christmas every year we'd save the sides of the tractor fed paper for a few days to decorate the tree and windows. I also had a program that made the C64 floppy drive play a tune. ::Sniff:: that was one of the best times of my life. No job, no women, no kids, no worries. Well
        • 300 baud teletype, man you must be older then I!

          I had a 1200 baud teletype by GTE. Not so advanced as dot matrix, but rather had 120 hammers and a spinning train track of letters. Actually I liked it much better. But I guess that's what you get for getting involved with the technology at a later date.

          Friends don't let friends surf at 110 baud.
    • Phfft...

      Compuserve.

      300 baud

      71660,2120 was my signon as I recall.

      Ahhh, the memories. Pay per minute for CServe on top of the long-distance phone call from my rural town, USA to the big city that had the nearest PoP. Thank GOD those days are gone.

      ER
    • My first computer was a C64 and it didn't even have internet. 300 Baud, psssh, i'd be lucky if i had any! Yet alone a hard disk. psssh, back in those days a floppy was actually floppy.
  • I love this sort of stuff and am thinking of buying the book now.

    Stuff written in this sort of style really draws you into the stories a lot better than dry reports on msnbcnn.

    I loved "Inside Intel" too, and "Hackers" by Steven Levy.

    The best bit in the article is right at the start, with the rabbis praying for stock to rise.

    graspee

  • Well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by k03 kalle ( 669378 ) <kalle@@@networkthis...org> on Friday June 13, 2003 @07:03PM (#6196307) Homepage
    Actually, they did do something good for the Internet world. Remember that they made it the standard to charge people for access to the internet instead of charging per minute. Several smaller ISP's had the idea first, but AOL took it mainstream and did it nationwide.

    This of course was humanities first encounter with busy signals and paying for service you can't actually connect to, but hey, at least they had decent intentions... :D

    -kalle
  • by rock_climbing_guy ( 630276 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @07:07PM (#6196328) Journal
    someone wrote a little-known program called "AOHell?"
  • by jr87 ( 653146 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @07:15PM (#6196367) Homepage
    the only times I could login was between 11:00pm and 5 AM. Those were the good ole days....
  • "This was not your typical deity. To begin with, there were his black cowboy boots, emblazoned with the AOL logo."
    If he had gone with that black-turtleneck and jeans look, maybe he'd still be #1. Nothing inspires the employees better then a sense of style.
  • They'll have reached their "glory days" once they mail me tons of unwanted junk one of the following:

    Firewire Hard Drives
    Sony memory sticks

    Until then they're just an A.O.K. intro to this "internet thing". Of course, I hope their users graduate eventually... =/

  • by Iron Monkey543 ( 676232 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @07:34PM (#6196437)
    Instant Message excerpt when i was 15 yrs old back in 1997 (Seriously!)

    My SN: Oh yeah baby that was good did you like it?

    Sexychick: Yes you hunk!
    My SN: You want to do this again next time? =)
    Sexychick: HAHAHA You F*G I'm a guy AHAHA you loser AHAHAHA!
    My SN: haha I knew that! was trying to trick you too! Hey man, this is neat, let's do this to other losers just to screw them up.....
    Sexychick: shutup. bye
  • I remember back in the 90's everyone used AOL (version 3.0), on an old 14.4k modem, yet! I remember after a few years we bought a 56k modem for a whopping $100, but it was a huge improvement. Just shows you how quickly times can change.
    • ooh wow 56k for $100.. I bought my 33.6 for $135.. and this was about the time AOL started offering 1 free month, so I had a nice new fast modem but could never sign on because the lines were always busy.

      I'm still mad I paid $240 for a 2.5 gig.
  • by MrP- ( 45616 ) *
    I remember when I used to have AOL.

    I used to make AOL addons ("proggies") in VeeBee and thought I was 1337.

    SuBZeRo By CoLDSLiMe /giggle

    Thank god I stopped eating paint chips and grew up.

    But hey, that's what got me programming.
    (unless you count stupid DOS batch "joke" programs (fake formatters, etc) as programming, i did that before I made aol addons.. or simple basic apps on a ti99/4a in the 80s)
  • Another similar book (Score:3, Informative)

    by zephc ( 225327 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @07:42PM (#6196475)
    I used to work with a fellow who wrote a book about the old days at AOL check it out [aolbygeorge.com]
  • You're talking about Quantum Link, right?

    I think that was the last time they were respected...
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @07:51PM (#6196526)
    Ah yes, the good 'ol days of A$$hole$ On-Line, when the first thing to set up in one's Usenet kill file was all postings from AOL accounts.

    Truthfully, the quality of posts from AOL accounts more than anything else kept me away from their service.

  • I think AOL/TW would need about a 100,000 Rabis praying simultaneously to raise their sinkhole of a stock now!
  • by operagost ( 62405 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @08:16PM (#6196625) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone else think that Myer Berlow [washingtonpost.com] looks like the "Coffee Guy" from Mad TV?
  • by Babbster ( 107076 ) <aaronbabb@NoSPAM.gmail.com> on Friday June 13, 2003 @08:29PM (#6196692) Homepage
    As I was reading the article (something few so far seem to have done), it was mentioned that the goal of AOL Business Affairs was to get as much of the venture capital possessed by a potential "partner" as possible. This makes me wonder if, even more than poorly thought-out ideas, fancy chairs and expensive office space, AOL caused - or at least hastened - the end of the dotcom boom. If they were siphoning ridiculous amounts of money out of these new companies before they even got their businesses moving, there would clearly be little left to actually make the businesses work. While association with AOL could be an asset, wouldn't losing a third or more of the available start-up capital making the AOL deal have given executives pause?

    I'd be curious to see some figures on how much of the aforementioned venture capital AOL managed to scoop up during the boom and what percentage of the total VC spent on Internet startups that number represents.

    Of course, this doesn't change the fact that if people were busted out because of AOL it means the executives of the busted company were making bad decisions...but it might make even happier those on the sidelines (particularly those who got out of AOL/TW stock before the bottom dropped out and those who AOL squeezed out of business) who are now watching AOL seemingly reap what it sowed.

    • I think that might indeed be one of the causes. The way the story is frequently told around here, there are a few reasons all the dotcoms collapsed. First, they had zt00pid business plans that sought to increase brand awareness and generate cash flow, not look to profitability. (The joke goes something like "1. Start dotcom 2. Spend millions on building brand awareness 3. ??? 4. profit!)

      Second, and somewhat related, many of the dotcoms relied on advertising dollars as their primary source of revenue. Wh

  • Chat with the Author (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jkeyes ( 243984 ) on Friday June 13, 2003 @09:07PM (#6196860) Journal
    I don't know if anyone else noticed this but there is going to be a chat with the author at 1 PM EDT Monday. It'll be at http://discuss.washingtonpost.com/zforum/03/r_maga zine_klein061603.htm
  • No numbers about it. I outgrew it in 1993. It was before the intArweb and everythin'! Strange to believe that in '99 people would give away so much money to AOL... guess that was before Google.
  • The article is lacking fact-checking. For example, it states that by the late 90s, the business affairs unit was working out of CC4. Creative Center 4 wasn't even finished until summer of 2000.

    So take it for what it's worth. I think the Sunday Post runs about $1.50.

    -Todd
  • There once was a very small company called Quantum Computer Services, running an online service for users with Commodore machines. Then there was another company called Apple who had an online service for its employees and dealers called "AppleLink", which was all graphical interface and real easy to use. They wanted something like that for the general public and thought about buying Quantum. But then they decided to go joint venture. When Apple got reorganized (something they did on a monthly basis in thes
    • Close, but not quite. AppleLink was only partially developed by Apple, and it was run by GE for a *VERY* hefty fee, even for Apple employees to use it. So, in order to get rid of GE, and get away from some of the idiocyncracies of AppleLink, Apple decided to write their own software. Unfortunately, about 90% of the way there, it got killed for being "outside our business," and Quantum bought the rights to the whole thing.

      That's why in the early days, AOL was *VERY* Mac-centric and friendly. Often new re
  • And hated it. This was in 2000 on a friends old computer with the constrained face of AOL making browsing unusable.

    This was also at the time when I was still working for a dotbomb. What makes me so fucking hopping mad when I read this article, and there are literally tens of thousands who feel exactly this way, is how pure, unadulterated GREED fucked up the internet economy, and with it our jobs and our lives.

    The moronic waste of invested money on expensive offices, cars, gadgets and toys by people who ha

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