Compuserve, Prodigy and AOL, precursors to what you kid’s now call “The Internets”. There was a day... so long ago that it is now a time of legends, where Dragon’s prowled looking for Marathon bars and soda came in tin cans and glass bottles... that one made a choice for your “online entertainment” and it weren’t free.
Some of us will remember “BBS’s”, Bulletin board systems.... these were simple systems that you dialed into ( yes I said dialed into) and were able to read some mail lists. People would never believe that people would run “Role Playing Games” and even Strategy games via this archaic method but believe me they did. You did not have the ability to send email everywhere in the world.... you were restricted to “subscribers” to the service.
( I wonder what teenagers would think if they were shown how we used to have to call a phone number, listen for a carrier signal that slam the handset down onto a Modem)
There were the systems run by Universities, I remember the Delta System, that i was introduced to in our schools career center on a 300 baud Dec writer and the PLATO system at the university. PLATO was a joy for me, on Friday’s they would have UDgaming where you could (with permission) play a wide range of games ( Moria and Battlestar were my favorite) on the amber screens of the PLATO terminals.
Then came the new wave of Subscription services...the AOL’s, the Prodigy’s and others that were a glimpse of what was to come. I still remember playing “Neverwinter Nights” on AOL... No Not that one, a much older version, Compuserve had a Squad Leader game that I never got to work on any computer i used. Now these services weren't free, you paid per hour and there were usually “peak usage” time “non peak” price scales that could add up in the olde days.
One of the services I belonged to was “Sierra Online” ( which would become the Imagination Network), this was a gamesentric system that enabled you to play Red Baron and other games against other players online and I spent many a hour playing there Fantasy game. Of course, the Bulletin boards were still big draws and again they did not extend beyond the boarders of the system... but it was cool, the way I imagine old maid was cool when it first came out.
I wonder if kids in the USA are even able to grasp the concept of a world before the world wide web. I can still remember the days the services began to disappear, some tried to hang on ( AOL still exists) and we took our first steps into a world joined electronically.