Back then it was called Apple Link, a project commissioned by Apple Computer and a company called Quantum Computer Services to connect Apple II and Macintosh computers.The beta test was dubbed “Samuel” and for Schober, a teenage fan of BBSes (bulletin board systems), it was an intriguing opportunity.“In the ‘80s, if you had a 2400 baud modem you were pretty hot stuff,” says Schober. People talk about their cellphones being slow now; a slow cellphone might be 256k or 512k, so if you think about something being 100 times slower than that, it’s ridiculous.

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Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) like made gaming in chat rooms seem antiquated.

There were, in short, a lot more options for people who wanted to interact online.

The chat product, called People Connection, had a variety of rooms for people interested in such topics as genealogy and strategy games.

Schober remembers a ticker dubbed “Network News,” a kind of virtual community newsletter that would let people know when certain chat rooms had a special guest or were discussing certain topics.

Windows 3.1 was released, making personal computers both more affordable and easier to use.

And, despite our memories of the slow-dialing modems of the ’90s, connecting to the World Wide Web was faster than ever at the time.

That’s what Parker was getting at when he talked about the “spontaneity to the Internet” during the Airtime launch.

In the ’90s, I constantly interacted with people known to me only by their screen names; today, I only interact that way in comments sections and on Twitter, and only occasionally. I’m nostalgic for AOL chat rooms, but would I use them if the company brought them back? But that doesn’t mean some entrepreneur out there isn’t working on something that captures the same spirit, albeit without the same hegemony AOL enjoyed.

He recalls a “little frontier town” where you could initially recognize almost every screen name you came across.