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Prodigy "Classic," We're Going to Miss You 82

Ralph Wiggam writes "A heartfelt, if somewhat sappy, article about the upcoming demise of Prodigy Classic. It gives credit to Prodigy for pioneering, or attempting to pioneer, things that history will probably not remember it for. Read the article here, and on October 1, pour some beer on the sidewalk for an old friend." Prodigy was my first online experience beyond local bulletin boards, back in 300 baud modem days. The original Prodigy was clunky as hell, but it was the first service to put "the masses" online. We knew the end was coming. Now we know exactly when. RIP Prodigy.
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Prodigy "Classic," We're Going to Miss You

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  • My last memories of Prodigy ($P$), from years ago, are more negative than positive. Where I lived, they were the _only_ online service available for a local call. I remember the frequently arbitrary censorship on the message boards (all posts had to be approved by moderators before they appeared!) This censorship system was slow, people took to posting the current date and time at the bottom of their messages, so that others could see how long it took to get posted. 1200 bps max when most people had 2400bps modems, then they upgraded to 2400 by the time a great many people had 9600 and 14400 modems. 40 column text everywhere. A half-hour inactivity timeout that applied while you were writing a message (email or public). Run over it, and you lost what you wrote. Lose your modem connection while writing a message and you lose what you wrote. Write an email to an invalid address, and the bounce doesn't give you the ability to re-send it. You have to re-type it. And this is only a tiny sampling of the problems.

    As for missing features, notable were no real-time chat, and no internet email access. I believe internet email was later added, at a cost per message. There was 3rd party software available to make up for many missing features - saving messages to a file, for example. Very clever software indeed. (And very slow).

    Then they started charging for email within the $P$ system - I think it was 10c each, with a handful "free" each month. Then, they started charging per the hour, even though they *still* had the banner ads up. That's right, dial into their ancient slow modems, and pay per the hour to look at banner ads and wrestle with their slow system.

    It seemed great at the time (until they started throwing more fees at us), but when I finally got net access, I realized how worthless $P$ had been. Now the net is going (or has gone) the same way (although not for the same reasons). The Usenet that once existed is dead, destroyed by Usenet spam, fear of email spam, and the huge influx of clueless newbies who have no desire to learn about a society that existed long before they found out about it. And, ease of access has, of course, lowered the bar, so more people of average to below average intelligence are posting. Sigh. The irony is, a service like $P$ is almost starting to make more sense, something private, where the rifraff can be kept out.

  • I remember that I used to connect to *P* and hangout in the Computer BBS section several hours a day. I still have some printouts that I made on my 9 pin Okidata. *P* was my first taste of what an on line community should be about. I remember taking animation lessons (in pascal and basic) from a gentleman named Robin Roudge before he left for the peace corps. I can also remember learning assemebly from *P* and getting assistance for writing a TSR. But what I remeber best about *P* before they changed their TOS was finding a hex crack for almost every game published at the time. No longer did I have to squint at that stupid red city population list for Sim City. No longer did I have to look up 1st word, 2nd paragragh, page 5 in the King's Quest IV manual. I guess that information is still avaliable now, but in a grander scale... :)

    I will somewhat miss *P*, but since I haven't had their service for 7 years now, only for the memories.

    BRRX28B siging off one last time.
    (Damn, can't believe I still remember that one... )

    Time flies like an arrow;
  • Yeah it was my first online experience too. My first computing experience, also. My parents and I (I was 9) went to Sears--of all places--to buy an IBM and came home with a Packard Bell 486 with Prodigy and a 2400 modem built-in. Sadly, I couldn't stand the damn thing even if it was "fast" for the times.
    Anywho, for the next 4 years Prodigy was my life. No kidding. The games were sweet. And I'd learned the art of flame at an early age...Then when I was fed up with Prodigy refusing to upgrade their software in 2 years I started using Prodigy Internet.
    But enough about me, eh? Anyone remember their tech support? Nice people. And anyone remember the chat rooms? Heh. They're all dead (not to mention clean) now...

    miyax, who's going down with the sinking ship
  • Oh, and I left out one of it's worst problems... the 6 page post limit, that required several different posts to deliver a complete listing of the source code. And that printing would only print to about half the page before it'd line feed to the next post... a huge waste of paper... :)

    BRRX28B one last time, I promise :)
    Time flies like an arrow;
  • Heh.

    My final Prodigy bill was $350. Anyone got higher? This is when Prodigy finally got an elite web browser. Then I got Netcom NetCruiser..ahh the IX days.
  • 300 bit modems??!? I would have killed for that kind of performance. You kids today don't know what real struggle is. Why, I remember using my 4 bit modem with my steam-power Conestoga Mark VII with its Intel 2002 processor to connect up to good-ol' Prodigy. Yep, those were the days...

    But alas, Gates and his Winged-Monkeys couldn't get any money out of us for using the service, so it had to go.
  • I have seen it coming for years. My first online experience was in 1984, with a 300 bps modem on my Apple IIe and a BBS called "MacPirates."

    By 1988, I was calling many, many BBSes, and sometime around then I tried out Prodigy on a friends computer. (By 1989, I would become a SysOp and between 1989 and 1992 I ran a small T.A.G. BBS called Final Frontier in Detroit) I was wowed by the idea that an online service could use graphics, but I laughed at the stupid online ads, the very slowness of it compared to BBSes, and the severe limitations of the system (e-mail limited by the screen for instance).

    Still, my thoughts were that Prodigy represented more of the future of online computing. When QuantumLink transformed into America Online, complete with *snicker* GeoWorks interface, it was becoming clear. The popular BBS scene in the Detroit area was starting to center around big BBSes like SOLARIS (not to be confused with Solaris :-), which began resembling online services...large chat rooms filled with teenie-boppers and such.

    Then Al Gore uttered the words "Information Superhighway" and the end of the old online world became clear. America Online became more of an ISP than a big BBS, and CompuServe, Prodigy, and others would soon follow.

    Prodigy Classic was one of the few links to that old time that we had left. I will miss it. It was a lot of fun.

  • X Prodigy? Bah, I'm OLDSKOOL baby. Back when prodigy wasn't even jacked into the Internet.
  • Perhaps the Internet will degenerate to the point where the intelligent people flee to store and forward systems like Fidonet or uucp. Only the Internet would be used as a transport, avoiding the toll charges.
  • Indeed... I was on CIS with my 300 buad acoustic coupling modem hooked into my TI 99/4A, and man was it just ever so amazing. There was something so thrilling about reading the text as it scrolled onto the screen, which you could just about do at 300bd. Sigh. Those were the days.

    We've come a long way, baby.
  • True old-schoolers don't need to spell it "skool".
  • Yes. Prestel predated Prodigy by several years, as did Minitel.

    Prodigy wasn't the first online service, nor was it the first graphical service. It wasn't even the first big-bucks, corporate-America attempt to build a commercial/consumer U.S. online service. (Knight Ridder lost something like 50 million dollars on Viewtron long before CBS/IBM/Sears started working on Prodigy.)
  • I signed up for Prodigy back in the spring of 1991. To put this in perspective, I was using a 286 with a 1200 baud modem to access their service. I probably still have their sign-on packet somewhere in my basement... =)

    I had no idea what a modem was until I started using Prodigy.

    One thing I remember was that back in '91/'92, AOL was so small that they purchased advertising space on Prodigy. Prodigy is also perhaps the originator of the online banner ad.

    My first experience with e-commerce was buying things from Sears online from Prodigy. Order something online and they deliver it straight to your door... what a concept.

    In late 1994 Prodigy was the first online service to give you this strange new program called a "Web Browser." This was back when Yahoo! [] didn't even have its own domain name yet. I got hooked. When Prodigy started letting people create their own personal web pages, I learned HTML.

    In 1995 I "graduated" from Prodigy and signed up with a local ISP. Today I'm doing web/CGI/Linux work for my job, and I would not be there if it weren't for that start I had got on Prodigy.

    Really sad to see it go.
  • Deskmate was a semi-gui program laucher that ran ontop of dos, it wasn't an OS. It was running on dos 3 on my fist PC, (which I was using until 1994, at which time ended up with a 486 and windows 3. a load of crap, the tandy responded quicker)
  • What hastened the death of the "old online world" was the fact that from 1990 to 1995, the pieces for easy Internet access from home started to come together.

    In that period, we started to see Winsock applications (remember Trumpet Winsock for Windows 3.1x?), which gave Windows machines the ability to access the 'Net. A similar thing was also happening on the Macintosh side, also.

    But two things REALLY kicked off the arrival of home access to the 'Net: the first was the arrival of a graphical World Wide Web browser, the second was the arrival of Windows 95 with its easy-to-configure Dial-Up Networking with full SLIP/PPP protocol support.

    Once Internet access because far easier to do, the days of the proprietary online services and local BBS systems were pretty much over. The only reason why America Online has survived is through sheer willpower and their decision to have close links to the 'Net.
  • Prodigy was my first on-line experience. I was about 6 or 7 years old and my dad used to use it on his Mac SE (@16mhz) to check stock quotes mostly. I didn't use it very much but I remember it being SLOOOOWWW. Because my dad was the president of a well-known Mac modem company, we always had the latest modem available. I remember when we first got a 14.4 modem.... Prodigy didn't support it yet so we had to use it at 9600 baud. Even 9600 baud was shaky with prodigy - it kept on defaulting back to 2400 baud.

    As mac lovers, we hated prodigy's interface. It was not a mac application at all - it took over the screen to emulate a PC and had its own interface conventions for everything. There were ad banners on every screen.

    I didn't use prodigy much. I prefered BBSs. Shortly before the internet became available to the masses, we began to beta test E-World (apple's online service based on AOL... Long dead AFAIK). As soon as the beta period was over, we used AOL through my dad's company in the event that we needed to find Myst walk-throughs or something.

    We were on the internet at this point, so I wonder why we used AOL for that. It must have been 1993 or 1994 when my dad's company got a T1 and set up a dial up system. I was about 8. We were using a 14.4 kbps modem. My dad taught me HTML and basic UNIX, which I practiced on his company's mail server. BTW, we were using Mosaic and MacWeb. When Netscape 1.1 beta came out we installed it and it was pretty amazing. We eventually upgraded to 28.8, and got an ISDN once it became available in the SF Bay area. It took about 6 months for PacBell to get it working.

    As for Prodigy, it was never very good. It's slow. They read and censor your email (!). It's slow. There are ads on every page. IMHO it should have been taken down a long time ago. No one who is still using Prodigy Classic can be in their right mind.
  • Grr I just am having trouble with my sig and need to test it. I hope no moderators notice this post and if they do, realize that I'm posting it under a really old story so that it won't bother anyone so they won't mark it down for being offtopic and hurt my karma :)

    The following sentence is true.
  • "Anyone remember their tech support? Nice people."

    Yup. That's practically how I learned to fix computers (and use them). My crappy, also a Packard Bell, 486 SX 25 was always breaking down and the good people over at Prodigy were always willing to walk me thru. Altough after awhile (it was always breaking) I came to learn that most of the time they didn't know what they were talking about and were breaking the computer more than fixing it.

    Great way to learn something tho, actually the only time, is when something breaks. As long as you have the time I guess. =]

    Hey I was 10 years old.

    One last thing. I remember my mom asking me if she could rent those banners that Prodigy had for her business. Lost revenue stream? Thank god for the web now anyone can have there own friggin' site for as much as it probably cost for one of those banners. That's progress.

    P.S. I still have a bunch of the install disks for the old Prodigy. I should sell them on eBAY to see how much someones willing to pay for this (junk) umm I mean piece of history. =]
  • Well, Prodigy was my first exposure to modem usage. Unfortunately we kids couldn't do much with it because we were warned that you could *click* and suddenly it drains yer VISA card. stupid parents I guess. (not mine!!)

    Anyone remember the joke in one of the Space Quest games where theres a terminal in one if the screens that is sloooowly loading "Plodigy." I got a kick out of that one, waaay back when. Miss those games....
  • by Kid Zero ( 4866 )
    It is sad to see the links to early days of bbsing leave us. I recall getting on to bbs's back when I had a c64 and 300 baud modem. Those were the days. :)

  • There was QuantumLink which was only for Commodore users. For $9.95 you could order the disk to use the service. My 300 baud modem from Comb Liquidation cost me $20!
  • Compuserve was there _way_ before Prodigy. Of course, Commodore had one (the name eludes me) about then.
  • Back in 1980 or 81, my Dad got us a CompuServe account for our TRS-80 Model 1. We had to stick the phone handset into our accoustic coupled modem. I remember when they upgraded to 1200 baud (back when baud and bits-per-second were the same thing) and we got a new modem that actually plugged into a phone line. When it came out, 2400 baud seemed impossibly fast.

    And I get pissed now when my cable modem gives me 8KBps download speed...

  • Ahhh the memories... the horrid VGA graphics. The boneheaded idea to change services into CORE and PLUS [my family quit REAL quickly after my sister racked up a $300 bill that way ... ] The word "bash" being censored. The mysterious elite hax0r's and there "blank messages". The underground accounts where you'd have your own private little message boards by writing email that bounces on purpose, therefore getting routed back to anyone who reads that email box .. That really cheesy game where you were a knight and rode around in some 3D maze .. Prodigy, I'll miss you so.
  • Maybe compuserve was there first, but those of us who used it in those halcyon days are still trying desperately to exorcise it from our minds.
    Thanks for bringing it up again.
  • I didn't use Prodigy but I do remember using CompuServe. I had to pay $24 per hour to access CompuServe and I'm still pissed about it!! They made me pay double the price of other CompuServe users because I had a "high speed" 2400 baud modem. Ha Ha. I'm cheering the death of these idiotic services: Prodigy, CompuServe, Genie, etc. I wonder how long AOL will last?

    Anyway, local BBSes were where the real fun was.

  • When I was just a small fry I used to login Prodigy all day with my 2400baud modem and tie up my grandma's phone lines to play the clunky little games online.

    I might still be on it if they hadn't have made the incredibly stupid decision to go from unlimited to limited hourly access.
  • I had known for some time that Prodigy Classic was to be discontinued, but its ending truly is something that will be mourned by long-time online users like me. (sniff)

    I still remember getting Prodigy in October 1989 (the San Francisco Bay Area was one of the first release sites). For me, it was truly a revolution--I was able talk with people sometimes thousands of miles away, exchanging ideas. Prodigy--despite what a lot of people think--was a major breakthrough in online communications, because it was all menu-driven and easy to use.

    What is interesting is that Prodigy's concepts probably influenced the development of America Online (I'm sure people here remember the first versions for the Macintosh and the Geoworks for PC circa 1990). And it may have played a role in developing the World Wide Web--I can hazard a guess that one Marc Andressen (of Mosaic/Netscape fame) may have looked at the basic tenants of Prodigy when he developed the Mosaic browser for the World Wide Web while at the University of Illinois.

    Yes, we all know Prodigy's limitations, but its influence on getting home computer users online is immense. In fact, I'd say even more so than The Source or CompuServe, since before 1989 CompuServe was a text-based online service, almost as hard to use as text-based Internet access in those days.

    A true pioneer is gone. But then, we've come a LONG, LONG way for the online experience since 1989.

  • Next week's Jon Katz article will be about the demise of Prodigy Classic; how it spells the downfall of the Net "as we know it"... how geeks should all rally together and keep Prodigy Classic alive; and how Prodigy Classic really, really helped with that whole Buffy censorship thing.
  • Prodigy was the first big online service to try monthly "flat rate" pricing instead of charging by the hour/minute, the first to run banner ads, the first to try what we now call e-commerce, and the first to offer a pictorial, Web-like user interface.

    The Source and Compuserve (and others) were around before Prodigy, but Prodigy was the first to try marketing the idea of going online to people who weren't already computer hobbyists.

  • You came along pretty late... Alot of us were on an online service called QuantumLink before Prodigy even existed..1984-1988 or so. QuantumLink was a nationwide online service for Commodore 64 users run by none other than Steve Case of AOL fame.. America Online is what QuantumLink evolved into after the demise of the C64 in 1989 or so... They even kept the same name for the chat room area as they had way back then. "People Connection". :) They were doing some pretty sophisticated stuff even back then -- Chat rooms with mouse-controlled avatars on a C64, from what I've heard. :) My experience with QuantumLink was fairly short-lived, however. QuantumLink quickly gained the lamer-farm connotation that AOL has today. QuantumLame, we used to call it. Heh

    There _are_ older services out there.. Anybody else here remember when Compuserve was a completely text-based UPPERCASE ONLY online service? :)

    Bowie J. Poag
  • Genie (nee GEnie, before it got sold by GE and bought by IDT) is still alive. Smaller now, but still there. It's a nice fairly calm place with a lot of good people (no script kiddies for a start).

    There are rumblings that it may disappear too, though... like end of December. :)

    (There's a running joke that Genie hasn't been turned off because IDT's forgotten about it, and it's generating enough revenue to cover its costs)

    They've attempted a web migration every year or so. None of them have been worth sh!t, but the text-based service keeps ticking over.

    ( SF-ALIEN @ GENIE.COM [asst sysop SFRTs] )


  • I believe Prodigy was the first to have a
    graphical interface?


    Why are there so many Unix-using Star Trek fans?
    When was the last time Picard said, "Computer, bring
  • ...and how the Columbine massacre, the media, and privacy rights had alot to do with it too. Dont forget those.

    Bowie J. Poag
  • Yeah, Compuserve software was really, really bad.

    It cost me a ton of money too.

    They really missed the boat by regarding the internet as a source of content rather than the medium it became.

    But there were real communities on Compuserve, people coming together to discuss and help each other on topics of mutual interest. The doom community in the Action Games Forum during 1994 is a fairly good example I think. They were friendly and informed (outside the occasional flame war over which editor is best.) Forums like that one achieved a civility that I've rarely seen matched on the internet. Maybe because those paying for their time are less inclined to waste it on mindless flames or disruptive posts?

    How was Prodigy at forming communities?

  • Prodigy's best feature, and the one that made it unique among early services (like QuantumLink/QLink [AOL], Compuserve, GEnie] was the online Sears catalog. The Sears catalog was, of course, the original "online shopping" experience -- the first time most people bought something without holding it in their hands first. And to service the catalog biz, Sears stores -- which used to be ubiquitous -- would have catalog depots where they would deliver your order. Going online via Prodigy, you could select what you needed, pay for it by credit card, and it would be in the depot practically the next day.

    Now, most today would consider that a step backward -- home delivery via FedEx/UPS is the norm -- but some people (like me) are never home to receive packages. There's actually a new trend toward local businesses like convenience stores acting as delivery depots.

    Prodigy always was the Avis of online services -- trying harder, never #1. The stuff they were always flamed for -- like the ads -- is commonplace enough today. (The only difference is that with the web, we have freedom of choice.)

  • PC-Link was just another name and interface for AOL for a while, the software came with the Deskmate OS on Tandy machines. AOL was also known as Promenade to Mac users at that time...

    RPGC44A@Prodigy (Now if I could only remember my CIS id...)

  • heh... MadMaze. I couldn't stop myself from playing that game.
  • In the early days, Prodigy would close the service for a couple hours every night for maintenance. The service would shut down at 2 or 3 AM every night and come back up early the next morning.

    Also, anyone else remember the CEO game on Prodigy? This was the game where you could be an executive in a candy, beer, or auto business. Each game lasted 2 weeks - you'd find an open game that was starting that day and join it. Then you'd have to make business decisions for your 'company' - like setting up budgets for advertising, etc, all in an effort to beat everyone else enrolled in your game.

    It was a really fun game, but they shut it down a few years ago.... too bad.
  • Somewhere, I know I still have my Q-link t-shirt :)
  • I remember back then... 1980, compuserve... an old trash-80 and that insane modem thay had.. I tried many times to make my Kim-1 use a modem but kept asking myself "why?? it dont have a display!" so I'd make it store and report data for me (early security for my dad's building) via phone..

    Wahhh... I loved those days... 12 and I ruled the world.... and the adults... they really were clue-less... (Explain a JK flip-flop to someone that couldn't understand that you had to turn the dial to play on the VCR for it to start playing! (Top loading with a manual tape mech!!!))
    but dad bought me all the gizmos (chips and stuph) and I readily pissed off every teacher from junior high through high school with my "creations"

    Anyone out there making librarian tormenters anymore?

  • >The Sears catalog was, of course, the original >"online shopping" experience -- the first time >most people bought something
    > without holding it in their hands >first. And to service the catalog biz, Sears >stores -- which used to be ubiquitous -- would >have catalog depots
    > where they would deliver your order.

    Excuse me? My grandma bought things before prodigy's investors even knew that diapers existed... Ever hear of MAIL-ORDER?

    the net just removed the chopping down trees part.
  • by drwiii ( 434 ) on Saturday September 04, 1999 @04:35AM (#1704969)
    My dad and I were alpha-testers of QuantumLink before it was first introduced (Of course I was like 8 years old at the time)..

    One of my present-day co-workers was one of the original architects of Quantum's network, and pointed out to me the other day how chat rooms in AOL's People Connection are still limited [] (by design) to 25 people, a limitation imposed some 15 years ago to keep buffers in people's 300 baud Commodore modems from overflowing with data and disconnecting the user. ;>

    He also told me how Steve Case was a lowly Marketing Drone in those days.. Case usually kept to himself, unless he was asking to borrow some money for booze.

  • Without those ads you are proxy-filtering out, the services you are using to complain about them would not exit. TANSTAAFL.
  • I am less than saddened to see this service excised from the world. Although I was never a customer, I have never forgotten their episodes of surreptitiously(sp?) scanning their customers' hard drives for installed software titles and transmitting that information back to their main servers. The only unfortunate circumstance of their demise is that it occurs for technical reasons rather than moral outrage.

    On the bright side, Microsoft seems to be slipping down the same icy slope, though helped along by the winds of distrust.
  • ...what a group. With such agile players involved, I can't believe that Prodigy couldn't keep with the times.

    All they needed was Chrysler to round out the team.


  • *P (as we used to call it) was one of my first online experiances... It warms my heart to remember how they would reject my posts for using the word "schmuck," or how they were shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to descover that people were more interested in emailing each other than buying online...

    But Sears did have one thing right. As time is showing, networked home computers _is_ the future of catalog sales!

  • Oh gawd yes!!!!

    I loved it and the AScii-art wearther maps!
    Compuserve had some really wierd things...
    I'm just glad that my dad never really had to pay those insane fees they charged! gotta love it when your parents get a company account and leave it at home for kiddies to use! (I was told to stop getting weather maps though... they were costing the company $4.00 each.)
  • The online computing middle-ages are over. I can't say that I won't miss them a little, though. I wasn't a real fan of Prodigy, although I did use it for a time. One poster recalled his 300 baud acoustic modem, another his amber monochrome Herc display. We all have moments like these. For me, it was poking around Michnet until the sun came up. Swearing like a sailor and checking the cups whenever the line noise got bad, frantically tapping the RC clock on my 12 mhz V-20 when the display blanked.(it usually didn't help) I remember marvelling at Unix chat (You mean I can ask somebody on another terminal to talk to me! ) and almost wetting myself when they made the wonders of SprintNET available. (Wow! I can now email Steve Jobs and tell him the IIc sucks!) There are still days I wish I could sit down at a 8k Atari and prod at the Tymnet gateway. It was so much simpler, so comparitivly innocent. BTW, Text-mode Compuserve is still available, though not officially I imagine. All of you Compuserve users can still fire up Telix or ProComm and browse the forums like you did in the days of 8088 processors and 1200 baud speed limits. Dial the access # up in your comm prog, enter your ID (, no /go:pppconnect!) and you're there!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have never forgotten their episodes of surreptitiously(sp?) scanning their customers' hard drives for installed software titles and transmitting that information back to their main servers.

    actually this whole scare was an example of some anti-prodigy FUD and paranoia.

    the info from your hard drive in STAGE.DAT (a cache file for the prodigy code) came about from a bug in prodigy software, and none of this info was ever transmitted back to prodigy.

    The bug was a disk cache bug: sometimes prodigy wrote more data to the disk than it had data to write. The result was old information in your cache would be dumped to STAGE.DAT accidentally. But these areas of the file were thought of as "blank space" by the program and were never read.

    Prodigy fixed the bug pretty quick.
  • I tried that godawful service back in '91 or so. It was the absolute worst service made, oblivious to "navigation". ALso remember the limitations of the screen for sending emails. Blah. I quit(didnt even pay the bill when it came) and stuck with BBSes.
  • Actually, PC-Link was a separate service for most of its life; only towards the end were PC-Link members able to communicate with AOL members. Promenade was a stripped down version of the GeoWorks-based PC AOL, exclusively for IBM PS/1 users. Mac users were always AOL members; Apple II users started with AppleLink Personal Edition, which quickly became America Online when Apple pulled out. And rounding out the AOL-operated brands was the original: QuantumLink, the Commodore Connection. All but AOL was gone by 1994.

    eWorld was based on the AOL system software, operated by Apple, and was launched and gone within a year or so, sometime around 1993.

    Jay Levitt, AOL mail guy, Q-Link member, 1986 - 1994
  • They were a pioneer from a success perspective; Prodigy was the first to break 1 million members, and the first to have Normal People (as opposed to geeks like us) as subscribers.

    When I used to try to explain what AOL was, the easiest way was to say "You know Prodigy? Like that."
  • Actually, while Sears is probably a more well-known merchant, both CompuServe and AOL's services (Q-Link/AOL/PC-Link) had various online shopping vendors: Eaasy SAABRE, the Comp-u-card brands (comp-u-store, auto-vantage), Long Distance Roses, Express Music, and a few others that escape memory.
  • Correction:
    Maybe not when you were using it, but P* Classic did get 'real-time chat.' Prodigy chat rooms, in fact, are where Pseudo got its start. (

  • I said,

    'the Sears catalog was, of course, the original "online shopping" experience'

    which the astute reader will recognize as a bit of irony, there having been no such thing as the internet in the nineteenth century.
  • Actually, no. My point was that the Sears catalog -- for a whole century prior to the net -- was something akin to online shopping. My overall point was that Prodigy/Sears offered this depot delivery service, solely because Sears had been doing it already for decades, which is a helpful link mostly missing from the current online shopping experience.

    I've made points before (here and elsewhere) about how so many net businesses are essentially re-creating things that we've long had in other forms. Like before we had modern grocery stores, there were grocery delivery trucks that would drop off fresh goods at your back door. Now we have people investing US$billions in companies that ... deliver fresh goods to your back door. Hmmm.
  • Speaking of such services, does anybody remember the awe-inspiring Delphi? After I used up all my parents' money on Prodigy {I didn't know back then that from Austin to San Antonio was long-distance.. whoops} I went to Delphi and was amazed by all the options available to me. They had telnet, usenet, archie, gopher, local groups, chatrooms and more. The command line was much more confusing, but much more useful than the colorful Prodigy interface.
    Anyway, I miss them both {and I don't think I ever 'officially' unsubcribed from either}.
  • I never used Prodigy, but I remember a few of my friends who did. I really miss the old BBS days, and sometimes wish that people would start getting back into that state of mind. Nowadays with the "web" (remember gopher?) there are all sorts of losers floating around. BTW, you must be thinking of Space Quest 6, when you access Dr. Belluex's(sp?) computer. That _was_ funny. -Wren
  • The Time article is dead wrong about Prodigy being the first. It barely even counts as a Pioneer. As the top of this thread points out, The Source (later swallowed by CompuServe) and CompuServe both predated Prodigy.


Promising costs nothing, it's the delivering that kills you.