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7/6/2009
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CompuServe Shuttered By AOL

The first major commercial online service gave many consumers their initial exposure to e-mail and Internet connectivity.

CompuServe, the first major online commercial service, has been shut down by AOL.

The announcement that the Internet service, which has had several iterations and name changes since its earliest origins in 1969, was closed brought a wave of nostalgic messages from users of the once-dominant service. Many of its subscribers are planning to cling to the service.

Begun in 1969 as Compu-Serve Network in Columbus, Ohio, it became the CompuServe Information Service and was later rebranded as CompuServe Classic. That latter service was shut down July 1, although a watered-down version called CompuServe 2000 is still in operation.

CompuServe's pioneering e-mail service gave many consumers their first taste of Internet connectivity circa 1989. Later it introduced thousands of forums, moderated by system operators or "sysops." The forums ranged far and wide from sports and stamp collecting to electronic gadgets and photography. (Many of its prominent sysops and forum contributors have since turned up on Facebook.) CompuServe's Filge editor enabled users to easily send text over the CompuServe network, allowing them to avoid the high costs of teletexing services like Western Union.

"At its height, the service boasted about having over half a million users simultaneously online," wrote David Goldes, an early CompuServe user who is now president and senior analyst at Basex. "Many innovations we now take for granted, from online travel (Eaasy Sabre), online shopping, online stock quotations, and global weather forecasts, just to name a few, were standard fare on CompuServe in the 1980s."

From its early days, most of the hardware operating the service was supplied by Digital Equipment Corporation. Much of the DEC gear has operated successfully even years after DEC itself disappeared in an acquisition by Compaq, which, in turn was acquired by HP.

AOL, itself slated to be decoupled from Time Warner, said CompuServe Classic has ceased operating as an Internet service provider and its services are slated to be taken offline.


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