Before there was a World Wide Web, a sizable chunk of all meaningful conversation between computer users happened in the forums at CompuServe, which was the dominant online service until AOL came along. There was a CompuServe forum for everything from PC hardware to comic books, the signal-to-noise ratio was generally high, and if you had a question chances were that a fellow member would answer it–just to be helpful.
CompuServe was acquired by AOL in 1998, and was never the same thereafter. AOL itself is now part of Oath, which is part of Verizon. And time is finally running out for the forums, which have stuck around in diminished form even as the rest of CompuServe has dwindled away. They’ll be removed from what remains of CompuServe on December 15, a fact I learned from my Facebook friend Howard Sobel, the cofounder of WUGNET, which has managed tech forums for CompuServe for decades.
The glory days of CompuServe are long gone. So, as far as I know, are the forum threads I participated in from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s. But for those of us who still remember the IDs the once-mighty service assigned us–hi, I’m 74352,1314–knowing that the forums are going away is like hearing about the death of an old friend. May the squeal of a 2,400-bps dial-up modem give way to a moment of silence in their honor.