Yet its perceived importance, both inside and outside of Compu Serve, developed much more quickly.

On May 12, 1980, the accounting giant H&R Block bought Compu Serve in a deal which left Jeff Wilkins in charge and promised to let him continue on the path he was already steering.

Helping his cause immensely was the fact that Sandy Trevor, who had replaced John Goltz as the company’s chief technical architect, was himself an enthusiastic supporter of the consumer service, sending the skunk-works group many of his keenest technical minds.

He thought of Micro NET as a way for people saddled with such toy computers to use them as the gateway to a real computer.

Thus Micro NET’s early emphasis on programming languages.

There was the hot-bath button, by pressure of which a basin of (imitation) marble rose out of the floor, filled to the brim with a warm deodorized liquid. The room, though it contained nothing, was in touch with all that she cared for in the world. In a later era, the World Wide Web would offer both of these things in a hundred-car pileup between the forces of traditional media and millions of empowered creative individuals; we as societies are still struggling in many ways to come to terms with the sea change this represents.

It’s of course the second part of the equation — all those empowered creative individuals — that marks the real diversion from the top-down media models of old.

Wilkins himself believed that the potential of the consumer service was a major motivating factor — if not major factor — prompting H&R Block to make the deal.

He told one interviewer at the time that he believed H&R Block wanted “to put themselves in a marketplace that is growing faster than the tax markets.” Needless to say, such a description no longer applied to corporate time-sharing services, now a stagnant rather than an exploding market.

Still, the Micro NET Software Exchange did point to Wilkins’s evolving view of the service, just as the effort that went into creating it pointed to how Micro NET as a whole was moving out of the experimental phase, ready to take its place as an actively developed part of Compu Serve’s business model.

Compu Serve began to take out some modest advertisements for the service in magazines like , and in the summer of 1980 dropped the separate Micro NET moniker altogether.

The consumer online service was now known simply as Compu Serve, all the former reticence about mixing corporate and consumer business in the same organization shoved aside.

Many people within the company remained unhappy about the push into the consumer marketplace, but Wilkins dealt with the developing culture clash by isolating his small team of consumer-service developers in an office of their own, far from the jeering of their colleagues.

Despite the appeal to immediate gratification that downloading offered over waiting for physical cassettes to come in the mail, the Micro NET Software Exchange never took off.