Though the company was founded in 1969 as a solutions provider that offered dial-up computer time-sharing to businesses, it evolved into a much bigger corporate beast that included the popular consumer online access service many knew and loved.
But the idea of offering a similar service to consumers might have seemed a little risky in 1979, when personal computers still seemed like a wild and crazy idea to most people. It was such an oddball notion that CompuServe’s own corporate sales force mocked their company’s fledgling consumer service as “schlock timesharing.”
Launched as MicroNET in 1979 and sold through Radio Shack stores, the service turned out to be surprisingly popular, thanks perhaps to Radio Shank’s Tandy Model 100 computers, which were portable, rugged writing machines that dovetailed very nicely with the fledgling, 300-baud information service.
Then came chat support, near-real-time stock quotes, weather reports, message boards and a curious thing called "Email."
After that, the rest is history: CompuServe grew from 10,000 subscribers in the early 1980s to millions in just a decade -- the most popular online service in the U.S.
But then came the sexy and CD-obsessed America Online, and it was a slow march toward obsolescence, its Classic service shutting down this past July.
(AOL, of course, managed to evolve away from its original claim to fame.)
What are your memories of Compuserve? Anyone remember their 9- or 10-digit username?