Online Messaging Systems of Yesteryear

I remember my first Mac at the University of Michigan. I think I was using Mosaic to connect to Gopher and Newsgroups. I had used computers before, but they weren’t connected to the internet. I was amazed when I found you could download things from the newsgroups, sometimes having to join a bunch of small files to get the original file, then decompress it. There were a few different firms vying for their compression software to be used. That same technology was used for DiskDoubler I think.

A bit off the topic but the Control Data reference was interesting. In January 1964 I was hired by Control Data to work on PLATO in Palo Alto. However, they decided to have me be an expert on the 3600 and I was sent to Paris in July for three months and Holland in October for three months to help the Philips programmers develop and convert their COBOL and FORTRAN programs for the 3600 and to make sure everything worked. In Eindhoven I even had to develop a demo for Princess Beatrix (later the Queen). Tapes spinning, card reader reading, printers printing, and so on. She was impressed.


My abiding memory of the days of dial-up access was the hefty phone bill each month! Needless to say, my parent weren’t happy, so I upgraded my modem as soon as I could and mastered the art of offline reading.

I started out on the Compulink Information eXchange (Cix) here in the UK in 1989, which ran the COSY conferencing service system that also powered BIX (of Byte Magazine fame). I also used CompuServe and AOL a bit when they reached the UK, but it was through Cix that I got my first taste of Usenet, and eventually joined the first public ISP, Demon Internet in 1992. By that point I’d gotten my first PC, but most of my Internet-ing was done through DOS until Windows 95 arrived.

As well as Usenet, I was also an avid IRC user for many years. Alas, my participation in both petered out in the early 2000s, around the time that I got access to cable broadband.