back to article Remember CompuServe forums? They're still around! Also they're about to die

CompuServe has announced it will remove its forums on December 15th, 2017. A notice that appeared on Tuesday, November 14th, US time, stated “For more than two decades, the CompuServe Forums paved the way for online discussions on a wide variety of topics and we appreciate all of the participation and comments you have …

  1. STrRedWolf

    First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

    It was inevitable. Quantum Link's forums shut down... then Usenet died off... and now Compuserve is being absorbed and rebranded into the AOL/Yahoo/Oath borg, and with it, the discussion boards of old are gone.

    Wish they'd donate them to the Internet Archive.

    1. Florida1920

      Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

      DejaVu. Weren't they taken over by Google Groups? Or did someone else get them first? Man, finding Usenet was a real awakening back in the 90s. Then the trolls moved in and wrecked the place. When he first got online in 1997, my father (then aged 77) thought the Internet would lead to world peace. Then I introduced him to soc.culture.iraq.

      1. Anomalous Cowshed

        Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

        I used to have compuserve back in 1995, and people used to come over and beg me to use it. For some reason, they found it captivating. I remember one bloke who visited me with a very nice looking young lady after a date, around 11pm. He left her sitting on the sofa and after asking me if he could use the service, sat down at the computer, absolutely fixated, for hours, while I flirted with the girl and eventually committed acts of entirely consensual sexual harassment upon her, less than 1 metre away from him--and HE DIDN'T BAT AN EYELID!

    2. David Roberts

      Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

      Usenet?

      Still working last time i looked. (Hours not days.)

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

        Usenet's alive and well (if a trifle slower than in days of yore), despite the gookids fucking up the irreplaceable DejaNews archive.

    3. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

      "the discussion boards of old are gone"

      CIX is still going

    4. Michael Strorm

      Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

      @ STrRedWolf; "Wish they'd donate them to the Internet Archive."

      From what I've read elsewhere, all the early stuff from the Compuserve Forums is already gone, and has been for years now.

      Personally, I never used Compuserve, but I do recall seeing the per-hour access cost at some point and thinking.... yeah, nice if you can afford it.

      1. strum

        Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

        >Personally, I never used Compuserve, but I do recall seeing the per-hour access cost at some point and thinking.... yeah, nice if you can afford it.

        It was possible to use it offline, using WigWam.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

        > Personally, I never used Compuserve, but I do recall seeing the per-hour access cost at some point and thinking.... yeah, nice if you can afford it.

        For some of us, it was either that or international modem calls at a time when international rates were such that you had to take a loan to say happy birthday to a relative abroad.

        And honestly, even twenty years back $10 per month was hardly unaffordable. IIRC that would give you 50 hours online... more than enough since a lot could be done offline, and it kept you productive the rest of the day.

        Funnily, I still remember my CompuServe password, which I haven't used for well over twenty years. :-)

        1. Michael Strorm

          Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

          "And honestly, even twenty years back $10 per month was hardly unaffordable."

          Yeah, but twenty years ago was 1997 after they'd started getting competition from the Internet and presumably after they'd reduced their rates. I was thinking more of the 80s and early 90s.

          According to Wikipedia, Compuserve was $5 an *hour* until 1996 and something like $10 an hour earlier on, getting up to $30 an hour in some cases (at early 1980s prices!!!). It's hard to tell from the article exactly how much it cost at any time and how much of it was (e.g.) call charge overheads, but that does seem to back up my memory of reading how much it cost in the 80s and thinking "yeah, that's *horribly* expensive".

          "For some of us, it was either that or international modem calls"

          That still doesn't change the fact it would be only bloody expensive instead of eyewateringly expensive and misses out the most obvious third option- not being online at all because even at its cheapest it would have been bloody expensive.

          I'd have *loved* a modem and being able to dial up BBSs and the like in the late 80s, but even if I'd had enough for the modem, I wouldn't have been able to afford the subscriptions or phone bills as a kid. Even circa 1993-94 when I first got on the Internet at university and was looking at trying to get access at home, there was no local number dial-up access available and it was still pretty expensive- enough that I just stuck to using the computer labs.

        2. 100113.1537

          Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

          Yep, still remember my CompuServe password too!

          50 hours was a helluva lot when they only charged by the minute and the stuff they had there was properly indexed so you didn't need to spend a long time online getting what you needed. Even after the web took off, I was quicker using CServe to get hold of drivers for printers from the WordPerfect Forum than chasing around using Netscape. I don't remember ever having to pay more than the usual monthly amount.

          I kept the service for local dial-in numbers all over the world well into the 2000's. In most hotels, local calls were free so I could check email from Abuja to York essentially for nothing. Not a bad feat before public WiFi.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

          "And honestly, even twenty years back $10 per month was hardly unaffordable. IIRC that would give you 50 hours online..."

          Here in the UK, where $ signs are converted to £ signs with little to no change in the numbers following them, even back when £1 was worth noticeabley more than $1, we also had to pay extortionate per minute phone calling costs too.

      3. dajames Silver badge

        Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

        Personally, I never used Compuserve, but I do recall seeing the per-hour access cost at some point and thinking.... yeah, nice if you can afford it.

        The only per-hour costs were for the phone call that connected you, and as I recall that was a local-rate number in most parts of the UK.

        Compuserve itself charged £6-7 a month (I think that was US$9.95, but fluctuated with the exchange rate) ... which seems a lot when you compare it with usenet (free) but is really only beer-money.

        1. Michael Strorm

          Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

          @dajames; "The only per-hour costs were [..the..] local-rate number. [..] Compuserve itself charged £6-7 a month".

          Yes, but *when* was that? I'm going to assume it was circa the late 90s or later. As I noted in another comment, Compuserve's prices fell massively around that time.

          By that point they'd already have been past their peak as people moved en masse to regular Internet access. As far as I'm aware, in their 80s and early 90s heyday, they were considerably more expensive.

          Apparently Compuserve launched in the UK in the late 1980s, and I'd be interested to find out how much they cost back then.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

        The idea was to use after hours connections to compuserve. Then the cost went way down. You were actually paying for time on the mainframe.

    5. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

      I do miss the Trojan Room coffee pot.

    6. bombastic bob Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: First Quantum Link... then Usenet... now...

      "then Usenet died off"

      no, it hasn't. neither has IRC. A lot of linux and programming-related and hacking-related newsgroups still exist, and get regular posts even.

      it's just that TOO MANY people swallowed the FACE-BITCH/TW*TTER coolaid. But on USENET there are no ads [other than SPEW/SPAM]. There are no moderators [a moderated group is easily circumvented anyway]. There are no more "control: cancel" responses that are honored, so no post-post editing either. (but then again, I wouldn't need editing so much on El Reg if the fonts were of a reasonable size in the edit window, aka "the same size as the text I view after posting" - which it isn't).

      And anyone who posts HTML to USENET is *APPROPRIATELY* *FLAMED*

      It's truly the Wild West on USENET. As the intarwebs SHOULD be.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quarter Century

    I started on CompuServe back in '87 when my feet were firmly planted on terra firma. Two years later I became a SysOp, four fora initially, which lasted until 2005. Practically lived on the service whenever I wasn't working or traveling for one reason or another. I was picked up by other fora and helped in various capacities. Back when the web was shiny and new, I created and maintained fora web pages and helped in creating the eventual permanent template. I still wince looking at it but must admit it's much better than Geocities or AOL ever was. End of an era, literally, for me. I'll have to drop in and thank the crew that've been keeping the lights on for the last decade or so.

    1. Jim 59

      Re: Quarter Century

      @Jack of Shadows - In '87, you and the Duke of Edinburgh were the only two people on the Internet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Quarter Century

        @Jim 59; I guess we've narrowed down the identity of the mystery troll who kept posting racist comments in response to his Usenet posts then.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Quarter Century

        There were a hell of a lot of people, even back in the '80's, on CompuServe then but we were not on the Internet. [Frankly no clue about the Duke of Edinburgh.] We were on CompuServe's minicomputers (which later was transferred to super-hefty, networked PC's and broke a bunch of software). If you wanted the Internet, you had to GO INTERNET which dropped you into a screen with a flashing cursor and not a clue about what to do now. I had to dig up Unix man pages to know how to do anything from there. Usually just Gopher and logging remotely into my SAS and SPSS accounts for all my mathematical and statistical modeling courses at UCR.

        1. Mike 16 Silver badge

          Re: CompuServe's minicomputers?

          Did I miss one of the transitions, or are you seriously calling PDP-10s (and successors by various names, but 36bit "serious computers" by most standards) "minicomputers"? Ever tried to lift one? (Which reminds me to ask if any TOADs shipped)

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: CompuServe's minicomputers?

            Minicomputers weren't portable.

            They just didn't take up most of a room.

            PDP10s were most definitely called minicomputers in the day, as were the 11s.

            1. PhilBuk

              Re: CompuServe's minicomputers?

              "Minicomputers weren't portable."

              I could pick up a PDP-8/E to move it round the lab. Wouldn't be able to do it these days without referring myself to a chiropractor for a few weeks.

              Phil.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Quarter Century

          > If you wanted the Internet, you had to GO INTERNET which dropped you into a screen with a flashing cursor and not a clue about what to do now

          And once you did figure out what to do and realise what a hostile and full of idiots sort of place the internet was, you couldn't run fast enough back to the civility of CompuServe forums.

  3. thames
    Meh

    A Relic of a Bygone Era

    Companies used to pay to host their support and user forums on Compuserve. That for example is how Siemens used to do their on-line support and user forums for their industrial automation division. Siemens maintained them on Compuserve long after the Internet became the mainstream and walled garden networks such as Compuserve were otherwise a relic of the past (Siemens rarely saw a bad idea they didn't like). I can remember people having to buy Compuserve accounts just to get support from Siemens and for no other reason.

    Aside from cases like that however, people cast aside Compuserve, MSN (the original incarnation), and several others I can't remember the names of, gladly when Internet service became generally available. With the Internet you could talk to anyone, anywhere, instead of just within your own providers walled garden, and not have to pay ridiculous extra fees to access Internet email.

    Large corporations contracted their external email services through these companies. If you were "in network", you could send email to other companies readily enough. If your email needed to go out to the Internet, then you had to pay extortionate per-byte charges to use their Internet gateway. The real money was in these email services, the forums were just an extra bit on the side to encourage individual users to sign up and so create a critical mass of users. Internet gateway charges were kept high to try to keep their own user base inside the walled garden.

    After a while having a Compuserve email address became the symbol of being a dinosaur. Large corporations also had their email service provided by them and other similar companies. You could tell which ones those were by the bizarre email addresses. I think that there was even a Dilbert cartoon about it.

    Once enough users were on the Internet, the user base for Compuserve and their ilk started eroding due to a combination of cost and access to content outside the walled gardens. Without the email services which hauled in the cash, the whole business model fell apart. Even Microsoft were forced into a humiliating climb down and admit that MSN was never going to replace the Internet and so shut down MSN (later re-using the brand name for their Internet "portal", back in the days when those things existed).

    Having gone through those walled garden days, all I can say about the people who think it's a great idea today to re-create those days in the new walled garden services of today is they are utter retards.

  4. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

    CIS

    From the jargon file (from memory):

    Customer implosion syndrome: a form of price competition that causes your customers to leave for other services.

  5. RM Myers
    Thumb Up

    Compuserve

    CompuServe forums are still around! I used CIS in the 80's and CompuServe's former headquarters is only a couple miles from where I live, but I had no idea they still existed. I started (slowly) accessing CIS over a 300 baud modem., eventually moved up to the big times with a 2400 baud modem.

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: Compuserve

      Gosh me neither. I used to hang around the MS Access forums (all of them), a couple of language ones and also the Metastock stock trading one.

      At the time it was a brilliant resource with lots of helpful people. And, you know what: one didn't need an Ad Blocker on one's off-line reader in those more enlightened days.

      I suppose this means the end of my @compuserve.com eMail address as well.

      Oh well, thanks for the service and, of course, the memories. Sigh

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Compuserve

        From what they've said, we get to keep using CISMail for now. I'll check that when the time comes. I've even got AIM addresses that log into CompuServe.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Compuserve

      I used a 9600 for a while but then 19200 came out the US got it before the UK. Luckily I had a company telephone line at the time so just switched to the New York node for anything large. Rather curiously I seem to recall that the UK got 28k before the US.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Compuserve

        "I used a 9600 for a while but then 19200 came out the US got it before the UK."

        19200 was something unofficial, offered by (IIRC) Telebit and USR and I can't remember any BBS offering those speeds around where I lived. The USR HST 16800 was somewhat more usual non-standard since USR used to give discounts on their - rather expensive but the best - modems to Sysops. Still, most people were at the time satisfied with their V32bis and slower models, moi aussi. If you were satisfied to grap the QWK file then even slower modems were fine until late 90s.

        Back then Zyxel was also a revered modem manufacturer, but now...

  6. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Will the last person on the internet

    Please turn out the lights?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Will the last person on the internet

      Death of The Internet predicted! Film at 11:00!

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: Will the last person on the internet

        Meh, I'll wait for Netcraft to confirm it.

  7. jake Silver badge

    CIS

    I had a Compuserve account in the 1980s and early 90s, but just to access a couple of company forums. I frequented a couple of Silly Con Valley BBSes starting in the 300bps days, but mostly used Delphi and/or BIX (starting with the BYTEnet beta) when they came online ... at least when my home Internet connection was down for whatever reason(0). I never really liked CIS. Nonetheless, RIP CIS Forums. You helped a lot of people along the way.

    (0) Hey, we were still mostly doing the NCP thing thru' '82, what were you expecting? Perfection?

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: CIS

      Yep, I used to use the Borland forum on Compuserve a lot back in the day, and I had a numeric email address, shame I can't remember what it was, now.

      1. strum

        Re: CIS

        >I had a numeric email address, shame I can't remember what it was, now.

        Think octal.

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Nostalgia

    The universe's way of telling you too many of your brain cells have died for you to remeber how bad it was.

    Something to keep in mind.

  9. Peter Prof Fox

    Pioneers of e-commerce

    It's a long time ago but ISTR it was quite easy to arrange payment via Compuserve. I must have earned tens of dollars by selling a utility program.

  10. Dwarf Silver badge

    CIS Goodbye

    Another technology era ends and a new one begins

  11. AndrueC Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Awww, that's a bit of a shame. Mind you I thought they'd gone several years ago. Oh well, here's a shout out to anyone that ever chatted with 100237,2643 :)

    I used to hang out in the Science Fiction forum (helped arranged several chats with CJ Cherryh) and the OS/2 forums. Also one of the UK forums.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I used to talk to David Gerrold on a daily basis although he used a psuedonym at the time (for a couple of very good reasons). I was quite entranced by "Voyage of the Starwolf" and "When HARLIE was One: Release 2.0" at the time. His War Against the Ch'torr" series not so much.

  12. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Where's the time gone?

    I fondly remember getting on the internet with Compuserve. I had a 286 powered greyscale* screen laptop and a modem. The only problem was when I tried to leave Compuserve, they kept saying "well you just emailed us so you are still using our service". I had to tell the bank to stop all payments to them.

    *or possibly monochrome with Hercules style dithering, I can't remember.

  13. Kaltern

    I wonder what the 'regular user' figures were, before the announcement...

  14. Michael Strorm

    Irrelevant Pedantry time!

    I notice that the computer in your Stuttershock photograph is an Atari XE which- despite the ST-style case- is essentially a repackaged Atari 800, and doesn't support the newfangled 3.5" floppies seen in the photograph (only the older 5.25"). (#)

    Also, the 80-column display- which can be seen more clearly in a higher-res version elsewhere- wasn't supported by the XE. (Unless you bought the XEP-80 addon that rather tackily connected via the joystick port (FFS!) and isn't seen here).

    Nor does the XE feature either the "alt" or numbered function keys referred to on-screen.

    In short, I'm shocked, *shocked*, that the people responsible for creating a stock photo no-one was going to pay much attention to may have faked it. Also, the computer wouldn't have looked that old and yellow when it was still quite new and in genuine use. Etc etc etc...

    (#) Even 720 KB DSDD 3.5" floppies would have been impressive at that time. In fact, having a floppy drive at all- mine had a 120 KB 5.25"- beat the living heck out of loading from cassette. Then again, pretty much anything beat the living heck out of loading from cassette.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Irrelevant Pedantry time!

      "Then again, pretty much anything beat the living heck out of loading from cassette."

      Apart from Commodire64 floppy drives which were almost as slow if not slower in their normal mode than a turbo loader tape!

      1. Michael Strorm

        Re: Irrelevant Pedantry time!

        Oh yeah, I heard that the original C64 floppy drives sucked.

        The difference was more pronounced on the Atari 8-bits because, while the floppy drives were reasonably fast, the cassettes were atrociously slow. The bitrate was 600 baud, but- unlike with other 8-bit computers- there were no turbo loaders (#) to improve the situation. Fifteen minutes for a 48K game was not unusual, and I had some that were closer to 20. (##)

        I think the problem was partly- although it was state of the art at the time of its launch and able to compete technically with the three-years-younger C64 on most counts- that when the 400 and 800 came out at the end of the 1970s, they only came with 8K as standard (the 400 was originally only going to be 4K), so loading time wouldn't have been such an issue.

        By the time the 64K 800XL came out in 1983, its home market (the US) would have been moving rapidly towards disks, so the tape loading speed probably wasn't seen as an issue.

        Anyway, I'd heard bad things about tape-to-disk transfer utilities, but when I finally got one I wished I'd bought it years before. I hated tape loading, and still can't get nostalgic about it even with six-inch thick rose-tinted glasses.

        (#) I remember reading somewhere that this was for technical reasons (I don't know which) and that without hardware modifications, the most that could be achieved was a frankly underwhelming 900 baud. The fact I never knowingly came across even this modest-but-worthwhile improvement (in the absence of anything better) on any games suggests that even this was pushing it.

        (##) FWIW, the multiload "Ace of Aces" took approaching half an hour to get started on tape and was completely unusable; it was obviously a game originally designed purely with the disk-centric US market in mind.

  15. Valerion

    113215,53 reporting in!

    My first ever job was doing telephone tech support at Compuserve, helping people who couldn't get online. You'd normally change a few things and then ask them to try again. Of course, they'd have to hang up in order to do so, and then it became somebody else's problem. Unless you got one of those people who said "Oh no need to hang up, I've got a second line!" I hated those people.

    Some good times there. The day they released the new CIS3.0 software (that was completely different to the old WinCim) without either telling us call centre monkeys, or actually training us (or, for that matter, even showing it to us even once before hand) was a fun day.

    Incidentally, I think Compuserve also ran the X25 network that Visa used for their worldwide card processing.

    1. croaker

      Re: 113215,53 reporting in!

      "change a few things and then ask them to try again"?

      "became somebody else's problem"?

      In my department you'd be on a PIP for such random advice ;)

      "The day they released the new CIS3.0 software"

      LOL. Yeah. I remember the bollocking going all the way up the chain of command and back down into Marketing for that one. Marketing. The bastards. They'd screw us CS team every chance they got.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 113215,53 reporting in!

      CIS 3.0. Ugh. I was one of the testers for that and recall having to jump in when you guys weren't up for supporting it.

  16. cschneid

    memories

    Octal user IDs, Golden CommPass, WinCIM, the Canopus Research forum, l'affaire Barkto. Good times.

  17. Blitheringeejit
    Boffin

    No idea what my username was...

    ...but I still remember (and still use for some disposable accounts!) the password which Compuserve assigned to me, made up of two dictionary words separated by a "+" sign. In terms of password security they were somewhat ahead of their time, by using multiple dictionary words and not requiring mixed case or numerics - hopefully somebody somewhere was given the password "correct+horse" and someone else had "battery+staple". (I can't remember whether I was allowed to change my password or not - but if I was, I never did.)

    And if all the forum archives are lost, I really think that's a shame, as they would contain a lot of interesting data about what people were thinking and how they were interacting in early online chat systems (AKA social networking). I remember being slightly fascinated by the cultural difference in tone between Brits and Merkins in discussion groups, with the former being noticeably more polite and less inclined to robust language. (Being a Brit, I found the Merkin frankness quite refreshing.)

    Careful study of these archives might even have enabled us to discover precisely when and how the rot set in, which might be handy if we ever invent a time machine.

    1. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: No idea what my username was...

      I remember being slightly fascinated by the cultural difference in tone between Brits and Merkins in discussion groups, with the former being noticeably more polite and less inclined to robust language.

      And yet the more polite set still throw around that tired old Internet Slur at the expense of those allegedly with more "robust" language.

      1. Kernel Silver badge

        Re: No idea what my username was...

        "And yet the more polite set still throw around that tired old Internet Slur at the expense of those allegedly with more "robust" language."

        Diamonds last forever, and some things last even longer - at this point you may as well gracefully accept the fact that you are going to be collectively known as "Merkins" until well beyond the end of the universe and get on with life.

        Protesting about it certainly won't encourage the rest of us forget it.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: No idea what my username was...

          No sweat, unwarranted name calling doesn't bother me a bit. Actually, it's a rather handy filter. Carry on!

  18. Parash2

    CIS software

    Does anybody remember a dial in software for CIS called Orzak or similar. It would save on the CIS hourly charge by dialing in, picking up ones forum messeges then hangup so one could look at the content at leisure. Then dial back to post comments etc. Worked a treat and saved lots of hourly charges.

    1. dajames Silver badge

      Re: CIS software

      Does anybody remember a dial in software for CIS called Orzak or similar.

      There was a reader called OzCIS, that came, I think, from some people called Ozarks West Software. I never used it, though, because I had already found WigWam when I first heard of it.

      1. strum

        Re: CIS software

        >because I had already found WigWam when I first heard of it.

        In which case, you may have read my WigWam manual.

    2. wrangler

      Re: CIS software

      OZWIN.

      I used TAPCIS myself.

  19. Barry Mahon

    Yep, those were the days

    Blasting in from the past all that.

    Goes the way of the good things of the time, Byte and Jerry Pournelle and all that stuff.

    Funny, seems I had more time to shuffle around Compuserve for hours, don't seem to have time to read all my mail now....

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019