CompuServe closes after thirty years

Columbus, Ohio – The original commercially-successful online mail service, CompuServe, has been shut down by its owner, AOL.

The clunky but much-loved service debuted in 1979, offering electronic mail, technical support and moderated technical forums. In 1980, it became the first online service to offer real-time chat online with its CB Simulator. At its height in the early 1990s, the company boasted of having half a million users online simultaneously.

But after AOL bought the company in 1997, the brand was allowed to decline. The current version of the service’s client software, CompuServe for Windows NT 4.0.2, dates back to 1999. 

The few remaining users are being encouraged to carry on using their existing addresses for free via a new email system. “They can switch over to Classic CompuServe at no charge, as long as they can sort out their own internet access,” said a spokesman.

The service generated a high level of loyalty, and the company’s message boards are deluged with messages of regret. “Farewell, old friend… I will miss the cheery voice when I turn it on,” reads one. “After so many years, it’s sad to say goodbye,” says another. The spokesman acknowledged the high level of sentiment, but said: “It’s just one of those things.”

CompuServe was a boon to journalists, amongst many others, allowing us to file copy without having to run around town clutching 5.25-inch disks.

David Goldes, an early CompuServe user who is now president and senior analyst at Basex, said the service was ahead of its time. “Many innovations we now take for granted, from online travel (Eaasy Sabre), online shopping, online stock quotations, and global weather forecasts, just to name a few, were standard fare on CompuServe in the 1980s,” he said.

– By CompuServe 104125,3416