America Online – a Nostalgic Look Back to the Internet 1.0

I was recently pleasantly reminded of the early days of the internet when a friend casually mentioned America Online. That familiar name sent me flashing back to the days of dial up modems and busy signals. I wondered what had become of the largest “walled garden” internet platform. A little research on the internet yielded some very interesting facts that I did not realize.

AOL grew from the gaming industry among forgotten giants from the likes of Atari, Commodore Computer, and little known at the time Apple computer. AOL was at that time operating as Control Video Corporation which sought to offer a radical idea to the gaming industry. The technology that CVC was attempting to get the online gaming console manufacturers to invest in was an online game portal where users would pay to play online games. Games would be available to download into their gaming console, played and then when the console was powered down the download would be dumped and the customer re-billed if the same game was downloaded in the future. Imagine that, a technology centered around a gaming console and online games – how preposterous. How on earth would that ever prove to be a money-maker.

In early 1991 AOL for DOS was rolled out. In 1992 AOL for Windows 3.1 and Apple was released and gave us that look and feel of the familiar AOL interface. That traditional interface with its’ comforting and consoling
“Welcome, You’ve Got Mail”

Play – AOL Welcome

became ingrained into our culture. These were signs of the arrival of a new form of entertainment and information – the official arrival of the internet for the general public. The online bulletin boards (BBSs) that were once only available to the geeks now were opened to a hungry public. Thanks to the AOLs, Compuservs, and Prodigys the internet as we now know it had arrived.

There are still a few who connect to the internet by dial up. For those of us have become accustomed to high speed connections and smart phones that connect easily and routinely to the internet it is nice to reflect and see that the vision of the internet’s designers was way back then – it is truly a small world after all. If you are ever curious or wanted a walk down memory lane AOL still makes that traditional connection interface available for free download. Within that “walled garden”, familiar interface you will still find those comforting log on welcoming messages, “Welcome, You’ve Got Mail”.

The Interface of AOL’s Ver 9.7 Desktop still looks quite the same

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