CompuServe Classic, the initial on-ramp to the information superhighway for a generation of Americans, has died. It was 30 years old.
AOL, the current owner of CompuServe, confirmed the passing of CompuServe Classic in a message sent to subscribers last week. The company had announced plans to shut down the service in April, urging customers still dependent on cheap dial-up services to move to a surviving version, CompuServe 2000.
Back in the early days of the PC, CompuServe was the Google of its day. Introduced in 1979, it was the premier service for a small number of geeks in the 1980s looking to share files and conversation as well as corporate customers looking for ways to connect their offices. And by the early 1990s, before the dawn of the World Wide Web and browsers, CompuServe's forums were the place to be on the Internet.
Other Internet service providers, such as America Online and Prodigy, chipped away at CompuServe's lead with lower-priced services. AOL eventually purchased CompuServe in a complicated deal with Worldcom, which took over CompuServe's networking assets. Development of the service stagnated compared to AOL's primary service, and both brands fell prone to the gradual movement of Internet subscribers to much faster broadband connections provided by cable or telephone companies.
CompuServe is survived by thousands of 9 and 10-digit usernames assigned to e-mail subscribers, an astonishing number of whom can still remember their numbers to this day and who left their remembrances on a CompuServe discussion forum. Only 7 percent of U.S. residents still use a dial-up service to access the Internet, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.