I was reading today about AOL’s need to slash jobs as they get ready to spin off from the Time Warner family. I had no idea that so many people (6,900) still worked there. I also had no idea that people still searched exclusively with AOL (which, incidentally, is “enhanced” by google). That’s okay — so is Bing. But seriously…
Seeing AOL in the news reminded me of their earlier glory days, which sent me ’round the interwebs looking up stuff about what it was like to get America On Line. In some ways, AOL paved the way for regular people to use the internet. Before AOL, we had CompuServe, which was a conglomeration of long strands of numbers for web addresses, a very dos-ish language. They had a pretty solid hold on world-wide-webbing, but they got caught up in holding on so tight that they will probably be better remembered for their shady customer service dealings.
A friend of mine got AOL on his Packard Bell computer way back in the early ’90s. It would verbally announce aloud that “you got mail” and that “you’re online” and all of that. It wasn’t fast, but it sure was slow. Back then, though, we didn’t know how fast the world wide web could be. Fast internet is what places like Michigan State and your finer Community Colleges had; certainly not our neighborhood. AOL made millions as modems buzzed along, jamming 1’s and 0’s down phone lines. It was a wonderful success as we “wrote our e-letters” and “checked the stats online”. Information suddenly became accessible; we suddenly became interested in information. Information was the new commodity for this new age, which, fittingly, was called “the information age”. It was also called “Deborah” for a short time.
I’m sure that there are computer-related things that we do today that will seem absolutely absurd in 20 years. This blog is just one example.