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The Internet America Online

Quantum Link Reverse Engineered 275

JeffLedger writes "A group of retro-geeks have rebuilt the old Quantum Link system to allow both emulated and real c64's to sign in over the Internet using the original software. Before it was called America Online, Quantum Link provided a pre-Internet online service to Commodore users."
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Quantum Link Reverse Engineered

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  • by windowpain ( 211052 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @10:38PM (#13601012) Journal
    Apple usesr and Windows users couldn't even communicate at first.
  • Typo in summary (Score:2, Informative)

    by ahecht ( 567934 )
    "Before it was called, America Online, Quantum Link provided a pre-Internet online service to Commodore users."

    Should be:

    "Before it was called America Online, Quantum Link provided a pre-Internet online service to Commodore users."
    • by TCQuad ( 537187 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @10:42PM (#13601041)
      No, it isn't... JeffLedger's speech recognition software, caught him, doing his impression, of William Shatner.
    • Whoever modded this "Offtopic" is a "moran" who needs to "get a brain". Errors in spelling or grammar in the summary or title are always "Ontopic" on Slashdot. So are personal attacks on the mods, who, I'm told by a "totally reliable" source, are "a bunch of homos".
    • So then somewhere along the line, it became AppleLink: Personal Edition, and THEN it became AOL Online later. Oh, I remember those magazine ads of AppleLink vaguely well.

      So were Commodores cut out of the network somewhere?

      After version 2.0, even the Apple II people that helped maintain, and fund the early years were cut out the network through interface 'updates'.
      • Golly I should research this before I post, but I seem to remember that Q-Link got screwed by the money-grubbers at Commodore (a bit before all the rest of us) and this one reason AOL never offered an Amiga client.

        So in essence, yes. Commodores were cut out of the network.

    • Eh, when I first read the blurb I thought they were talking about Quantum Leap and it was only confirming itself talking about communication..

      1am is definitely a good bedtime.
  • by aaron_ds ( 711489 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @10:41PM (#13601027)
    Impossible! Reverse engineering would destroy the quantum coherance. I just got one and$@^V4545FSBfbffgf+++ATH NO CARRIER
  • I always wanted to try out Qlink, maybe this is my chance. :)
  • You think I might catch them on a blue light special?
  • Ziggy... (Score:5, Funny)

    by MustardMan ( 52102 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @10:48PM (#13601080)
    damn it, I have to get this retro computer nerd a girlfriend before I can leap out!
  • by katana ( 122232 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @10:50PM (#13601084) Homepage
    Call me when you reverse engineer Quantum Leap [].
  • by Cerdic ( 904049 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @10:52PM (#13601099)
    If we reverse engineer the Quantum Link, we might get enough power to emit a tachyon beam to disrupt the neutrino field the Cardassians are emitting.

    Oh, oops, thought this sounded like some Star Trek technobabble.
  • by Mostly a lurker ( 634878 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @10:52PM (#13601102)
    Back in the day, we complained bitterly about how inadequate Quantum Link was compared to the real Internet. Now, 10 years after the service was discontinued, we are willing to setup emulators to allow us to play with a reconstruction. Lol.
  • QLink (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bob McCown ( 8411 )
    I still have my Qlink coffee mug. Gets a lot of "What's that?" questions.
    • I have my QLink sweater, t-shirt, disk case, coffee mug, and the little note pad with the cover which looks like a 5-1/4" disk with the hole in the center :)
      • You really should take a picture of that stuff and send it to me. We are always looking for old Q-link shwag. I even scanned in some old Q-Link BRC's and we had them printed out at this months SWRAP Expo.
    • You can compliment your original Q-Link mug and support the Q-Link Reloaded project by ordering a new mug []. Then you can fill up your mugs with coffee and stay up all night soaking in the retro goodness.
  • by LoadWB ( 592248 ) * on Monday September 19, 2005 @10:54PM (#13601109) Journal
    I certainly hope so. I still have my SuperQ disk around here. I know what I'm doing this weekend :)

    I also wonder how many members of the old Q'mmunity will try this out. I'd love to get back in touch with some of my old Q-Link friends.

    I'll also note that I submitted a story last year on the 10-year anniversary of the Q-Link shutdown. It was sadly rejected. I'll give a basic rehash here...

    After several months of system degradation, overflows which allowed AOL and Q-Link members to converse, complete UNDERhauls of the Q-Link system to be per^H^H^Hconverted for use within AOL, and the incesant "Come to AOL" emails, Q-Link was unceremoniously shut down at the normal off time. Nobody from AOL showed up to say "Thank you for a spectacularly fun and eventful decade." Nothing. At the bottom of the screen:


    This was the normal message you saw at shut down, but probably most fitting on this particular morning.
    • You'll to be content with PEOPLE CONNECTION for a while. SuperQ required a while new set of commands, which we have not completely figured out. Jim
    • by g00z ( 81380 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @12:04AM (#13601399) Homepage
      SuperQ isn't supported yet, but it's high on the priority list I believe. At the current rate of development I think we'll have it up and running in a month or two. (knock on wood).

      I was never big into the whole SuperQ think myself. I spent maybe 99% of my time in Club Caribe (like a lot of other serious losers did).
  • Name Dropping... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JohnA ( 131062 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {nosrednanhoj}> on Monday September 19, 2005 @11:03PM (#13601149) Homepage
    I first subscribed to QuantumLink in 1986 when I was 8 years old. Anyhoo, I was asked to join the "User Advisory Board." In exchange for 240 free "plus" minutes per month, I spent about 30 minutes in a People Connection room with several employees of QLink, one of whom had the screen name "SteveCase"

    I wonder if they've reverse engineered Puzzler or Club Caribe... :-)
    • Re:Name Dropping... (Score:2, Informative)

      by cbm_dude ( 749668 )
      Club Caribe is not too tough to reverse engineer the protocol, but you also have to implement the entire Habitat/CC server component. I have some code to do that, but implementing the basic service has been the top priority.

  • Awesome! (Score:5, Funny)

    by crimson_alligator ( 768283 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @11:18PM (#13601217)
    Nothing of content to add. I just want to say that this is very, very righteous.

    8-bits are still fun to use!

    Wicked Friday night in the 8-bit era:

    7-8pm Q-Link
    8-9pm Play Airborne Ranger
    9-10pm break for new Kids in the Hall episode
    10-11:50pm Q-Link
    11:50pm-12:00am Call local BBSs, make moves in Space Empire to initiate attack another system. Buddy/ally does same. (as do your slave accounts)
    12:01am-12:10am Use fresh Space Empire turns for the new day to complete sneak attack. Double fists of fury!
    12:10am-1:00am Play Test Drive
    1:00am-2:00am Play California Games
    2:01 turn on wardialer and go to bed
  • Nostalgia (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LordOfYourPants ( 145342 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @11:19PM (#13601229)
    Any other Canadians use QuantumLink? As a young person without much of a concept of money and how usage fees can multiply, I was blown away by the first month's bill we received for QuantumLink. 20 hours of use -- after some bizarre internal long distance charges, access fees, and currency conversion -- worked out to about $200. Club Caribe was fun, but the bill (and my parents' reaction at the time) made it a service that I disconnected from quickly.

    Like another poster above asked, has anyone been able to connect to the server and see if Club Caribe worked?
  • All these "pixel art" sites and work you see are nothing more than a rip off of Habitat. AFAIK that's one of the oldest programs/systems using avatars.
    • I remember man, I remember. That was a wonderful experience. It had tons to do and explore. Oddly enough, it was much like other MMOGs today. Lot's of clicking around to find small little 'gems'. As I recall, you could even take off your head and put on a new one. If Habitat/Club Caribe runs on this thing, I'll be there all weekend.
  • C64 Hacks RULE (Score:4, Insightful)

    by serutan ( 259622 ) <(moc.nozakeeg) (ta) (guodpoons)> on Monday September 19, 2005 @11:33PM (#13601288) Homepage
    Wow, that's what I call a cool hack. C64s used to be the funnest things to play around with. Years ago I built a servo control circuit board for a friend to plug into the back slot of a C64, to control exhibits in a coin-operated art gallery (later known as The Church of Elvis, Portland Oregon). Writing the control software in Commodore Basic and seeing the whole thing work was one of the coolest things I ever did.
  • FAQ's (Score:5, Informative)

    by g00z ( 81380 ) on Monday September 19, 2005 @11:52PM (#13601363) Homepage
    I've been involved in the beta testing of the server for the past month so I know what kind of questions everybody has (since I've been asking most of them myself already).

    Q: Will/Does the implantation support Super-Q, Rabbit Jacks Casino, Club Caribe, etc?

    A: Right now, only the basic (Q-link 4.0) games work such as Hangman, Battleship, Chess, etc.. Since the hard part (the q-link & x.25 pad stuff) has been pretty much conquered, the rest of the lot should come with time. The only real exception to that rule is Club Caribe--it's not impossible that it can be supported, but it certainly is the hardest thing to implement and also last on the developers' list. Rabbit Jack Casino is on the top of that list I think. One of the developers has gotten Puzzler to work (part of super Q) but only independently since the server itself doesn't support Super-Q....but progress is being made.

    Q: How many users does the system support? (Since the old service ran on a Stratus 200 with 8 12Mhz

    A: Well, we'll see after the slashdoting I suppose. I should be able to handle much more on modern hardware. Keep in mind when you automatically join the People Connection you are dumped into the lobby--the Lobby supports (as all rooms in the PC) up to 23 users, and when the limit is reached it creates a new lobby and dumps new users into it.

    Q: What works so far? What works and what will cause the client to freeze?

    A: Pretty much all of the People connection (that includes email, IM's, panels, and games that don't require super-q or cc), The Commodore Connection (only one download is available right now for testing), Customer Service (message boards are at about 90%). Most of the other areas 'work' but haven't been populated with content yet. Any old timer Q-linkers that may have saved stuff from these areas are encouraged to help us out. Oh yah, the "Let Q-Link pick my partners" when starting a game option will most certainly freeze your client.

    Q: Does it work under Linux?

    A: Sure does, although it's a bit more involved that doing it through Windows with our specially patched Winvice 1.6, or even just running TCPserve and connecting with a real C64/C128 via a RS232 adapter and null-modem cable. If your using Mac OS X (Like I am) your kind of screwed though.. unless you have the genius to compile the latest Vice with RS232 emulation for Mac OS X. Otherwise, the site has all of the tools you'll need, assuming it doesn't get Slashdoted.

    Q: Got a mirror? (In case the main site get's slashdotted)

    A: Sort of. []
    I have the Q-link v4 disk up there along with some extra goodies (games discs 1/2 + CC & Super-Q). I don't have the patched version of WinVICE 1.6 though.

    Those are the biggies I can think of off the top of my head. If you have anymore questions (not spelling or grammar related), post em here.
    • Re:FAQ's (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jesup ( 8690 ) *
      As you can see here: 8 020 [], I was one of the designers/programmers of PlayNet (which was later tweaked and named QLink). They're _still_ (last I checked) using a variant of my error-correcting protocol designed specifically for X.25 PADs, running over TCP (which is kinda dumb). Now, they may not use it for much anymore; probably mostly just login I'd guess.

      I promised these guys I'd dig through my old C64 development disks to see if there's any source; g
      • Anything you can recover from those old discs (or 9-track tapes if you find a reader) might be very usefull. There are still a lot of holes that we haven't quite filled yet.
      • P3 (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jay L ( 74152 )
        Is P3 your baby? Yep, as far as I can recall P3 is still supported for some of those older clients. I remember in the late 90s there was work to talk to some clients via L2TP instead, and of course servers never send the whole input packet around to each other anymore; it gets abstracted much closer to the edge. But at some level, I suspect vestiges of P3 are still in daily use; the two-character routing token the most obvious one.

        I am pretty sure I have a file or two around here that uses 0x7F as a line
  • I suddenly feel quite young again. And to think, I saw the 10th Anniversary Edition of Toy Story the other day.
  • by Broadcatch ( 100226 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @12:11AM (#13601427) Homepage
    Before it was called, America Online, Quantum Link provided a
    pre-Internet online service to Commodore users.
    I don't care what wikipedia says, in my book the Internet came about somewhere in 1982 (or so) with the advent of the exterior gateway protocol and gateways that connected BITNET, Usenet, ARPAnet and CSNET, or certainly by 1983 with U of Wisconsin's name server.
  • I miss my old C-64. Eight bit computing was so simple. Want some data, LDA it from its register! Want to write something? STA it wherever you want! Asking the OS for resources is for WUSSIES! Damn it, if I want background processing, I'll write a raster interrupt routine to do it.

    Life was easier when you only had a choice of 4 of 16 colors, and then only a 320x200 bitmap to put those colors on.

    I'll say it again: *sigh*

    • The C64 was *the* hacker box back in the day. You could do pretty much anything with anything without fear of corrupting the system (ROM has its advantages), and the capabilities of the system were just unreal for an 8-bit of its day (remember, it was originally supposed to be an arcade game platform). I never got to use Qlink (mom was a hardass about getting a modem) but I do remember some of the games I played -- I still wish I had a recording of the credits music from the C64 version of Arkanoid II. Abso
      • Re:*sigh* (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bennomatic ( 691188 )
        Forget Arkanoid... Dr. J vs. Larry Bird... Raid on Bungeling Bay... Impossible Mission... Jumpman...

        Zork III, for G-d's sake! Am I wrong? Epyx Summer Games... Drol... For cryin' out loud, Choplifter!. Don't you dare forget Choplifter!!!

        Oh, my god, I almost forgot Mule and Archon, and that stupid game I typed in from Compute!'s Gazette, "Spike".

        There was a typo in that one, I remember. It was all machine language. Pure numbers, six 3-digit numbers and a checksum per line. Terribly boring to type

  • And this looks like it's actually an appropriate time to ask. I've heard that the Tandy "PC-LINK" service was also a predecessor of AOL. Anyone with some real knowledge want to enlighten me on the connection (if any) between Quantum Link and PC-LINK?
  • Quantum link between two computers reverse engineered and message decrypted (thus violating Schrodinger's principle?)
  • I remember the 1000's of hours me and my friend spent hacking into Qlink. For it's time there was nothing even close.

    And to think, now it free....

    The C64 rocked...

  • by Conspiracy_Of_Doves ( 236787 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @01:20AM (#13601722)
    Quantum Link was America Online?

    Oh god. I feel so dirty now.

    First Star Wars and now this. You people just won't be satisfied until my whole childhood is ripped to shreds, will you?

  • by cbm_dude ( 749668 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @01:38AM (#13601778)
    12:33AM Central, and server is handling the load OK. Thanks /. for the stress test. Pics appear to be back up, but they are not on the QLink server anyway, so they are expendable.

    I've been so hard at work on the code, I don't have much docs, but you can ask away.

    You can also email me (looks pretty easy to Google and find my email, so I'll let that be the test) if you are having connect issues.


  • by PhantomHarlock ( 189617 ) on Tuesday September 20, 2005 @02:38AM (#13601964)
    Is the innocence. :)

    The social makeup of the online community 20 years ago was so much different than it is now. Even those of us who are left are 20 years older and different from whom we were then. It's a time and a 'place' that will never again be repeated, although seeing the UI again has sparked some very distant and pleasant memories.

    Thanks for bringing it back, and it was interesting to read in the thread what hardware the service originally ran on, I had always wondered. If there are any more details I'd like to know. (how many dial in lines, how were they physically situated...any PHOTOS of the hardware?)

    FOr those of you who are wondering about the AOL connection - Quantumlink was run by Quantum Computer Services in Vienna, Virginia. They later started a service for PC and Mac users called America Online, and that later became their entire business and business name. As mentioned earlier, they shut down Qlink and encouraged migration to AOL, and that was the end of that.

    This coincided with the general decline of C=64s and 128s in lieu of newer machines. But yes it would have been nice to have Amiga support for it, because for the next 5 or 6 years I owned probably every single model of Amiga ever made at one time or another.

    Before getting a shell account with a UUCP newsfeed in '91 or so, I was visiting local multi-line BBSs. (MajorBBS with lots of lines - 16 to 32 lines) and that's where I met pretty much everyone I knew at the time. Local boards are great, because you get to meet everyone eventually at local gatherings. Oh well, that's all gone too. Back to IRC where anyone you don't know is either a pedophile or a cop. :)

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.