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CompuServe's Forums Are Closing On December 15 (fastcompany.com) 142

harrymcc writes: In the era before the web, the forums on CompuServe were indispensable for everything from getting tech questions answered to chatting about movies. They still exist, albeit in diminished form. But Oath, which owns AOL, which owns what's left of CompuServe, is about to finally shut them down. I wrote about the sad news for Fast Company.

CompuServe's Forums Are Closing On December 15

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Downloading ASCII porn on an actual 1200 bps dial-up modem!

  • When I had to pay an insane minute rate to download software updates. Compuserve had no number at that time in Denmark, so I had to place a call to Sweden(iirc). I remember having 2 CDs from Novell with a searchable knowledge base. :D
    • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @12:36PM (#55548285) Homepage

      Man, they're STILL around? Next thing you'll tell me is that the SCO-IBM case is still a going thing.

    • by barc0001 ( 173002 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @12:38PM (#55548307)

      Same. No direct dial in Canada so we had to pay to use the Datapac network at a crazy hourly rate on top of the Compuserve hourly rate. Datapac was priced so it was JUST cheaper than direct dialing LD to Compuserve in the US directly. Today's kids will never know the pain of calling someone 100km away and paying $1.25 a minute for the pleasure OR waiting until after 8pm to do it for *only* 25 cents a minute.

      • Today's kids will never know the pain of calling someone 100km away and paying $1.25 a minute for the pleasure OR waiting until after 8pm to do it for *only* 25 cents a minute.

        Yes they will. Prices of unlimited plans will get jacked up to the point where per-minute plans for lighter users will begin to look attractive again; then they'll return.

        • Nah, that ship has sailed and is already over the horizon without a radio, no way to call it back. A lot of kids these days don't even use voice. And those that do are also using VOIP messenger apps that will work over wifi as well as the cell network.

        • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
          The internet has destroyed this model of billing completely. Until the internet itself is destroyed by regional segmentation and firewalling, there is no mechanism for enforcing even international per minute billing. I can "call" someone anywhere in the world that has a reasonable 1Mbps internet connection, and it's free.
          • I can "call" someone anywhere in the world that has a reasonable 1Mbps internet connection

            Assuming whoever you're "calling" uses the same service, which also assumes that service is allowed in their country. Can you Skype or Slack call someone in China?

          • "The internet has destroyed this model of billing completely. "

            Yup. Those were the days when the telcos decided how much bandwidth you wanted and dictated the terms of everything.

            The FLAG cable project was where it changed. Up to that point all the long-haul cables were owned by Telcos and they mostly had cozy agreements based on monopoly control of communications gatewaying out of the country each one was based in. The model was already creaking as telcos struggled to contain demand but when FLAG went live

        • Yes they will. Prices of unlimited plans will get jacked up to the point where per-minute plans for lighter users will begin to look attractive again; then they'll return.

          I used a pay as you go cell plan a couple years ago. It was 10 cents a minute to call anywhere in the US and Canada, not $1.25.

          • Well, they have to remain competitive with the current price of unlimited plans. A lot of people use less than 400 minutes of talk time per month ($40 unlimited plan vs 10 cents per minute), while many fewer use less than 32. Back in the early 2000's when I was actively involved in this industry, the cutoff was about 2 hours and it's been trending downward ever since; if I had to guess it's around an hour now. For someone at or below that threshold, 67 cents per minute is still a deal.

            Threshold usage is o
            • But its not just unlimited or metered - those aren't the only choices. At the moment I get 500 minutes for £10 a month (more than enough for my personal and daily sales calls). So that is about 2p a minute - a long way from even 25p (or cents). Perhaps the US is less competitive though?

              • Perhaps the US is less competitive though?

                There's no "perhaps" about it. We have 4 national providers, everyone else you hear about either has a very limited footprint and buys access from the big 4, or are just off-brands of the big 4 themselves. Seriously.

              • by b0bby ( 201198 )

                It's a little less competitive, but there are plenty of cheap pay as you go plans in the US too - like $10 with cals & texts at 5c/minute or each, and good for 90 days - really cheap for a light user. But with facetime/skype etc, no one is going to be gouged like the old days again. My unlimited prepaid plan is $30/month with 5GB fast data which is enough for me.

                • But with facetime/skype etc, no one is going to be gouged like the old days again.

                  You'd be surprised how many people would jump on $1.25/min with a $1/mo maintenance fee for a phone that will roam on any network. Not everyone wants a device they carry and use all day, every day; we're actually a minority, we just happen to form the majority here on Slashdot. A lot of the older crowd just want something they can throw in their glove box for emergencies and don't mind paying $20 for airtime if they have to use it to call for help once when the maintenance fee is $12/yr and the alternative

            • by Bert64 ( 520050 )

              When you have unlimited, your more likely to make a casual call...
              If there is a per minute cost, especially a high one, you're more likely to think about the cost and not make the call unless its absolutely necessary.
              So if you switch from unlimited to per-minute, your usage is actually likely to decrease further.

              • Indeed, which is precisely why I believe we'll see a resurgence of high-cost-per-minute phone plans. For a great many people it just makes sense to pay $1/mo just to maintain a number and agree to an insane rate per minute for the rare instances when they need to make a call away from home. Think phones kept in the glove box in case the car breaks down or given to a young child and configured to only be able to dial 911 and the child's parents. A year of service and 15 minutes of talk time (enough to handle
            • You're describing the USA mobile and landline markets, which are NOT competitive environments and are regarded internationally as some of the most restricted in the world.

              US Telcos have managed to regain and maintain legislated local monopolies since the breakup of AT&T - in fact the whole thing has reassembled itself quite nicely and specifically to a size and structure where the FTC and FCC won't step in, minus that pesky universal service obligation that was imposed after the antitrust settlements ba

              • You're describing the USA mobile and landline markets

                I know what I'm describing, thanks.

                which are NOT competitive environments and are regarded internationally as some of the most restricted in the world.

                Really? I wouldn't have guessed and I certainly didn't mention this elsewhere in the thread...

                *sigh*

                That said, your information is good and backs up my position, so... thanks, I guess?

      • Same. No direct dial in Canada so we had to pay to use the Datapac network at a crazy hourly rate

        Same here, but that‘s why we used offline readers that downloaded everything we needed in a minute or so and then hung up.

      • No direct dial in Canada

        We did have it by the early 90s in Vancouver. I remember direct-dial to Compuserve to access EasySabre to look up flights.

        Used to amaze my travel agent (yeah, we had those back then) by having all the possible routings and flight numbers to hand when I called them.

      • Don't forget the penalty many services had for you having a faster modem as well. Oh my. You have a modem fast enough to cause you to spend less time on our system than those poor slobs with only 1200 or slower? We are going to charge you a higher per minute rate to make up for it.

        I think one of the best things that ever happened to those walled garden standalone services was the advent of the Freenet system that was implemented by many libraries across the U.S. which finally gave the general public a ta

      • we had to pay to use the Datapac network at a crazy hourly rate

        Then you should have used PC Pursuit [cheshirecatalyst.com], a (probably only US) based thing. For the low, low price of $20 monthly? they gave you nighttime access to their dial-up network. This let you dial into their network and get telnet access to an X.25 pad. There was a table mapping area codes to outgoing sites [phrack.org]. You manually connected your local site to a remote site.

        Then you were effectively sitting at a Hayes dial-up modem prompt. (Hell it might have BEEN an actual Hayes.) You issued ATD local phone number

    • by jwhyche ( 6192 )

      I didn't do compuserve. I went with Genie instead when the did that $5 after hours deal. I remember the Aladdin software for the old Amiga. It would let you download all the messages from your roundtable, read and answer them off line.

      While I haven't thought of compuserve in years, didn't even know they where still around. I guess that would be the last connection to the old BBS days from long ago for me.

      • by jasenj1 ( 575309 )

        ex-GEnie user here, too.

        Discussion boards, online games - with graphics! Eventually access to Usenet.

        The graphics have gotten prettier, and UIs fancier, but it's basically all still people having conversations and yammering on about this and that.

        • by jwhyche ( 6192 )

          I was still online with Genie the night they turned off the lights. The system just became unresponsive a hour or so later. I expected the modem to drop but it didn't. I was even able to dial in the next day and get a connection but no login in. Sad way to go.

          I kept my genie feed even after I hooked my amiga 500 into usenet. I was a news junky at the time, still am, and genie had that AP wirefeed.

          • I used to dream of owning an Amiga.

            My Radio Shack Color Computer had a 300 baud modem. Enough to get into all sorts of text arguments that I had no right to be in on the BBSs.

            I remember being told that Computers were a dead-end career in the early 80's.

        • by sconeu ( 64226 )

          Me three. No graphics for me because I had a 1200 baud modem at the time. I was stoked when I went to 9600.

          • by jwhyche ( 6192 )

            I moved up from a 2400 to a 14.400, skipping 9600. Downloads where not only faster but I could expand my sphere of bbs circles. I could finally download from porn sites that might as well been lightyears away.

      • I did it for about a month. It was pointless when you had access to USENET, and Compuserve was very difficult to use and navigate in comparison to everything else.

  • Oblig (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @12:34PM (#55548267)

    I haven't used CompuServe in years. I switched to Prodigy and haven't looked back.

  • What I wouldn't give to get a copy of the Compuserve software that ran on those SC40's into SIMH.

    Compuserve could get resurrected at live again!! :)

  • In the era before the web, the forums on CompuServe were indispensable for everything from getting tech questions answered to chatting about movies.

    Ok hands up if you even gave the briefest thought to CompuServe and their forums in the last 20 years. If you did you are the only one. Honestly I'm kind of shocked anyone was actually maintaining this stuff in any format.

    • I never used CompuServe (difficult in this country) but I thought of them recently when I debated how to pronounce "GIF".

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I never used CompuServe (difficult in this country) but I thought of them recently when I debated how to pronounce "GIF".

        It's pronounced JIFF dammit. And it's D-ah-S, not D-oh-S for your operating system. Now excuse me while I get back to my WANG minicomputer.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          For reasons I can't explain, people who say JIFF annoy me to no end. It's like, I know it doesn't matter, but for effs sake, learn English. The G is for 'graphics', hence by the acronym rule, it's GIF as in 'gift'. And beyond that, just according to the rules of English, there's no trailing 'e' or 'y' to transmute it into a 'j' sound. There is literally no rule in English for it be pronounced in the bastardized way.

          D-ah-S I agree with, again, no trailing 'e' to create a hard 'O' sound.

          • D-aw-S
        • And it's D-ah-S, not D-oh-S for your operating system.

          Not in an Australian accent, it isn't.

    • There's a surprisingly large amount of early internet still being maintained, but a lot of it has gone through so many different owners that it isn't even always clear who is responsible for maintaining it. My father had a very old Prodigy.net email address that stopped working this summer (we had warned him that he should switch to something else well before this). He tried to get in touch but it turned out that multiple different companies had bought what remained of Prodigy and despite the fact that he w
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Attempts to learn from previous mistakes: None.

    • by a9db0 ( 31053 )

      Actually, I have.

      I made a group of friends there years ago, some of whom I'm still in touch with, albeit via other means now. Those forums, and some of the friends we had there came up in conversation just the other day.

      Hmmm. Perhaps I'll go see if I can dig up an old copy of OzWin and see if it still works. I might even have some of the old forum message threads around...

    • by erice ( 13380 )

      I was a poor student in Compuserve's heyday. I liked the idea but it was unconscionably expensive so I couldn't really get into it. By the time I had the means to pay for Compu$pend, I had Internet and Usenet so there didn't seem to be a point.

    • Haven't thought about for over 35 years.

    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      Nope. I think about GEnie and AOL from time to time (especially when I find a random AOL CD somewhere), but it's been years since I last thought of Compuserve and its silly octal user IDs. I think I had an account for a few months, but jumped ship to GEnie based on price, and this was the days when GEnie charged extra for 2400 baud.

      Also a bit of trivia, (IIRC) GEnie ran on the GECOS operating system, which was responsible for one of the rarely used fields in the Unix passwd file.

  • by zuki ( 845560 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @12:41PM (#55548325) Journal
    Even though I haven't been on there for many years, I must say that it was a pretty incredible feeling when I first got connected to their user community with a 300 baud modem back in May 1984, even traveling around with an acoustic coupler; Generally being able to check in, getting information when I needed it, and participating in so many discussions would just be taken for granted today, but to people of all ages who started connecting back in those early days, it truly felt like the dawn of a new age.

    A special mention to Dennis Brothers (70065,127) who had made a Terminal Emulation Program called MacTep available to the community, and without which we wouldn't have been able to get started at all.

    I sure hope some of that early stuff stays archived somewhere...
    • All that early stuff is gone and has been for some years. The "Compuserve Forums" that are today are a pale webby shadow of their ASCII glory.

      You can look in on the forums as they are here [compuserve.com]. I don't think you need to be logged in to read.

      I kept paying the $9.95/month to use it for dialup Internet when on the road, and so still have the numeric e-mail address (now approximately an AOL ID with e-mail).
  • Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @12:54PM (#55548403)
    This is indeed sad news. I first learned about Unix-like operating systems from the Compuserve forums. I had no idea that there was a whole ecosystem devoted to open source computing and tinkering beyond MS-DOS and Windows. Compuserve opened a wealth of information to me. RIP
    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      Shutting down these forums in shameful; the cost of running the server aspect of a community-moderated forum site of this size is practically Nil, likely doable for less than $100 a year, otherwise they'd have been turned off long ago....
      I can see from some samplings of the the Linux [compuserve.com] forum that this thing is actually still used, And it looks like a pretty decent Forum system -- likely better than PhpBB bloatware.

      Clearly Oath are just being corporate b***trds, otherwise they'd find people in the co

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @01:04PM (#55548503)

    Compuserve predates public access to the internet. After Compuserve and before the web, people communicated through USENET and IRC. Then there was a brief moment before the web turned into a brochure, but that's hardly significant.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Compuserve predates public access to the internet. After Compuserve and before the web, people communicated through USENET and IRC. Then there was a brief moment before the web turned into a brochure, but that's hardly significant.

      You young kiddies... Back in my day, we used FIDOnet BBS to communicate.

    • After Compuserve and before the web, people communicated through USENET and IRC.

      Then there was the very real reason why CompuServe was unaffectionately know as Compu$pend: The monthly bills that would be quickly racked up were mind-boggling. Fortunately, there was FidoNet for BBS's. It served as an adequate, almost always free, alternative. It wasn't perfect, but I vastly preferred it over CompuServe.

      Frankly, I'm shocked that CompuServe lasted this long.

      • by Megane ( 129182 )
        I knew it as Compu$lurp, but the main point is that it predated Microsoft with the changing the S to a dollar sign meme.
  • by CharlieG ( 34950 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @01:14PM (#55548579) Homepage

    Met many a great person over on MSLangs, and the Crafts forums
    Was a Section Leader on a few forms, but was never a "wizop"

    • Met many a great person over on MSLangs, and the Crafts forums
      Was a Section Leader on a few forms, but was never a "wizop"

      Man, that was my first exposure to C-Serve, too!

      I still have my Model 100, athough by now the NiCd batteries are probably long-toast...

      • by CharlieG ( 34950 )

        I was one of the developers on the "Lurker" project when VB1 first came out. We were writing a Windows version of Tapcis. I was responsible for reading TAPCIS compatible data files, and displaying them, and writing back TAPCIS compatible outbound files. I got MY part working. The folks who had to do the stuff that actually talked to the CI$ servers never did their part

  • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @01:19PM (#55548629) Journal

    The Compuserve forums don't seem to have a functioning search and all agents are blocked by their robots.txt.

    What did the people running the site expect? Traffic when no one can discover the site?

    Whoever made the boneheaded decision to put this in their robots.txt file killed the forums:

    User-agent: *
    Disallow: /

  • by Revek ( 133289 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @01:38PM (#55548803) Homepage

    Now what did I eat for breakfast this morning.

    • by zuki ( 845560 )

      Now what did I eat for breakfast this morning.

      Ditto on the CompuServe ID, but I also remember what I had for breakfast... LOL

    • That is nothing. I can still remember our phone number and street address from when I was 5 years old (reaching half a century in a little over 2 months).

      None of the other students in my kindergarten class could recite theirs; and because I was able to do it, I was supposed to get to do something special for the police demonstration day that was coming up the next month. I was scared as fuck about that, due to stage fright. But I had a save due to being out of school that entire month with pneumonia.

    • by laing ( 303349 )
      [72175,1425] I haven't used it in over 35 years.
    • *THIS*. Me too.

      Oh wait, that was AOL.
  • by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @01:55PM (#55548951)

    Better drag out my acoustic modem that takes the Model 500 handset (got it at kludge sale for $5). I could only afford the 300 baud, I was not rich like you 1200 baud guys. I enjoyed it immensely, even got to do electronic mail. I also was able to get detailed news of Shuttle flight 41C. Someone was kind enough to devote tons of time to get latest space news compiled in a single text file (decades before spaceref, NASAwatch, etc). Took some time to download but was very convenient since none of us had access to the UPI/AP wire and a Model 33 Teletype. Then the UPI found out and put a stop to it.

    Actually last time I logged in was in 1996, there was a website that you can look up people that had compuserve accounts. Ah yes, them were the days.

  • Are they still running those PDP-10s? Would be amazing to see if they are.

    Even if the whole lot of them could be replaced by a couple of smallish VMs running on a laptop somewhere.

    • My Christmas present to myself is going to be an old laptop set up to run Simh as a PDP10 with Tops10 - a real TOAD! I believe a Core2 will comfortably outperform a real PDP10, and ASR33s are not really all that convenient in the bedroom late at night. (LA120's are also not great if your OS wants some sleep- yes, I have tried).
      • by Megane ( 129182 )

        (LA120's are also not great if your OS wants some sleep- yes, I have tried)

        It took me way too many seconds to imagine how a Decwriter could keep your operating system from sleeping. Perhaps you meant SO?

  • I remember when I worked for CompuServe as a support person. Odd software, LOTS of information in the forums, weird modem settings, etc... The thing I liked best, a free unlimited use account. I mostly used CompuServe as an ISP and went all over the Internet on their dime. Saved tons of money. Had access to those special areas in CIM that were extra cost. Some of those were hundreds of dollars to get in and use. Don't miss it at all.
  • by oh-dark-thirty ( 1648133 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2017 @03:28PM (#55549729)

    76057,2411 signing off forever...

  • I used CIS forums for doing tech support for our users and doing update announcements and uploads. The thing that always made CIS the go-to place for this was NavCIS. It was like Blue Wave or QWK for CIS - you clicked a button and it went and got all your email and subscribed forums, downloaded any files you selected, uploaded any you had waiting, sent replies to email and forums, and logged off. It was fantastic, I did the daily support runs in maybe 2 minutes a day online time, often less.

    No, this isn't t

    • That was pretty much how I used the Internet after I moved on from CIS. Dialed a national number (no local access) then waited for email upload/download and usenet sync. After my first £200 phone bill I decided to trim my Usenet newsgroups to a minimum.

  • What is the reason for Oath?

    I mean so far it seems to be a place for Verizon to stick all their under performing acquisitions or divisions of them anyway. Oath certainly isn't building brands like its mission statement would imply, it looks more like a place where good brands without many assets behind them go to die!

    Is this anything other than an entity setup where the parent company Verizon can 'invest' in so it can show some losses to offset their other gains until they can find a sucker to pawn these p

    • I think it's mostly a place for the webmail divisions of AOL and Yahoo to fight over whose users don't get to migrate to the other legacy code base. And maybe for Verizon to threaten AT&T with that sort of thing, given that AT&T is still using Yahoo Mail as its webmail provider.
      • by Megane ( 129182 )
        More than that, AT&T is also using them for outbound SMTP. They used to have their own SMTP servers that relayed for customer IP addresses. Now you have to authenticate, and much more annoyingly, it requires you to go through a (Yahoo) web configuration page to allow other From: addresses in outbound mail.
  • I was a member of CIS from 1981 to 1992, when one of those 'ISP' thingies set up shop in my neighborhood. In that time, I was also active in various BBSes, especially FidoNet (I was a point node).

    Some of the forums were just fantastic, and you could find tech support for just about anything. Yes, it was stupid expensive, but as mentioned above you could use a program to swoop in, check your mail, and new msgs on the fora. I used a thing called Recon that worked very well - really kept costs down.

    Anyway, it

  • I am surprised about how much Oath has been closing. It seems, mainly for show. I really doubt that AIM or Compuserve Forums were consuming many resources, given they could be/are moved onto a cloud server that is shared with other systems. Things could be set up so it costs near nothing to run them. It really is sad that they are shutting these things down, and pretty pointless.

    I used compuserve for a few years. They had some interesting features, such as being able to login with PPP via the GO PPP command

  • Eternal September is coming to an end? Might be time to break out the NNTP client, and check out Usenet.

  • AOL shuts down its AIM, Star Wars: The Last Jedi premieres in USA, and now this. What else?

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