10 Descriptions of Offerings from Early ISP’s

Back in the formative years of what we know today as the internet, the worldwide web was less a web and more a chain, linking mostly businesses and a privileged few. Choices for service were also few and what services they offered were in many ways a far cry from those of current internet service providers. The following is a list of 10 early ISP’s and descriptions of their services:

  1. The Source – From 1979-1989, Source Telecomputing Corporation offered a mostly text-based computer service. It made use of excess data capacity of existing minicomputers and data networks to provide internet access to dial-up customers. For a start-up fee of $100 and hourly rates that were double the minimum wage of the time, The Source wasn’t for the everyman.
  2. Prodigy – Another pre-web service which offered news, weather, sports, bulletin boards, email, and references for an initial price of $12.95 per month for unlimited use. Unfortunately, it hadn’t been designed for the amount of use it got in the form of email and bulletin board traffic. Add to that Prodigy’s decisions to censor subscribers, plus offer unlimited chat rooms and the service was doomed.
  3. CompuServe – The first online service to offer internet access in 1989. CompuServe was initially used primarily by businesses, then techies, and finally the general public. At first its prices were hourly based, then as competition grew, flat monthly prices were offered
  4. Genie – Launched in 1985 by General Electric’s Information Services as a text-based service, Genie provided the first real competition to CompuServe. Offerings included e-commerce,  games and forums for $5 per hour and at 300 baud rate.
  5. AOL – What CompuServe was to the computer geek, America Online was to the neophyte. The behemoth of ISP’s in the early days, AOL offered online games, chat rooms and instant messaging for a very low monthly charge when using its online software suite.
  6. UUNet – Originally developed as an alternative to heavily-burdened existing web hubs, UUNET began as a non-profit corporation in 1987. UUNET’s original offerings were an email exchange, Usenet feeds, and access to software libraries. It quickly became the fastest-growing ISP and so went public within 2 years.
  7. PSINet  – Began in 1989, PSINet was the first ISP to offer commercial internet access to companies; introduced The Pipeline, an online service which provided a point-and-click user interface for email, worldwide web, Usenet and chat.
  8. Netcom – started in 1988 to provide university network access to students in the San Jose, CA area. Netcom launched a Windows 3.1 program called NetCruiser for web surfing, which made it one of the most popular ISP’s in the mid-90’s.
  9. EarthLink – Began with ten modems in 1994. Providing a user-friendly interface with the web, EarthLink grew quickly into an ISP favorite offering e-commerce, web hosting and, via a partnership with UUNet, nationwide internet service.
  10. AppleLink – An early IPS for Mac and Apple IIGS users. Beginning in 1985, AppleLink provided bulletin boards, email servers, file transfers, using Pascal software. The first email from space was sent via AppleLink on Aug. 21, 1991 from aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis.

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