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Episode Info: Today we’re going to cover America Online, or AOL.  The first exposure many people had to “going online’ was to hear a modem connect. And the first exposure many had to electronic mail was the sound “you’ve got mail.” But how did AOL rise so meteorically to help mainstream first going online in walled gardens and then connecting to the Internet? It’s 1983. Steve Case joins a company called Control Video Corporation to bring online services to the now-iconic Atari 2600. CVC was bringing a service called Gameline to allow subscribers to rent games over a dialup connection. Case had grown up in Honolulu and then gone to Williams College in Massachusetts, which until the rise of the Internet culture had been a breeding ground for tech companies. Up to this point, the personal computer market had mostly been for hobbyists, but it was slowly starting to go mainstream.  Case saw the power of pushing bits over modems. He saw the rise of ARPAnet and the merger of the nets that would create the Internet. The Internet had begun life as ARPAnet, a US Defense Department project, until 1981, when the National Science Foundation stepped in to start the process of networking non-defense-oriented computers. And by the time Case’s employer Control Video Corporation was trying to rent games for a dollar, something much larger than the video game market was starting to happen.  From 1985 to 1993, the Internet, then mostly NSFNET, surged from 2,000 users to 2,000,000 users. In that time, Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web in 1991 at CERN, and Mosaic came out of the National Center for Supercomputing applications, or NCSA at the University of Illinois, quickly becoming the browser everyone wanted to use until Mark Andreeson left to form Netscape. In 1993 NSFNET began the process of unloading the backbone and helped the world develop the Internet.  And the AOL story in that time frame was similar to that of many other online services, which we think of today as Internet Service Providers. The difference was that today these are companies individuals pay to get them on the Internet and then they were connecting people to private nets. When AOL began life in 1985, they were called Quantum Computer Services. Case began as VP of Marketing but would transition to CEO in 1991.  But Case had been charged with strategy early on and they focused on networking Commodore computers with a service they called Q-Link, or Quantum Link. Up until that point, most software that connected computers together had been terminal emulators. But the dialup service they built used the processing power of the Commodore to connect to services they offered, allowing it to be much more scalable. They kept thinking of things to add to the service, starting with online chat using a service called Habitat in 1986. And by 1988 they were adding dedicated fiction with a series they called QuantumLink Serial.  By 1988 they were able add AppleLink for Apple users and PC Link f...
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