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How 25-year-old Prodigy screenshots got rescued

When I decided to write about the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign and how it was waged, in part, on online services such as CompuServe and Prodigy, I had a basic problem: I wasn’t sure if I could show what I was talking about. The services I was referencing are long gone, and screenshots that depict them are not exactly plentiful.

But in a remarkable bit of good fortune, I happened to tell tech historian and Fast Company contributor Benj Edwards about my conundrum. He told me that he’d recently been in contact with Milena Jovanovitch, a former Prodigy employee. And she had saved color printouts of a bunch of screens showing the service’s 1992 campaign coverage, some dating to 1991. Scanned back in, they were the perfect illustrations for my story.

Preserving Prodigy’s history is a passion for Benj: Along with Jim Carpenter, he’s spearheading the Prodigy Restoration Project, an effort to save images from the service. (Remarkably, they can be extracted from cache files saved on ancient PCs.) This sort of digital archeology is no less valuable than the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine—and given that the services in question vanished so many years ago, it’s in some ways the tougher challenge.

HM