A2 History Home
A2 History Logo
© 1991-2005 by Steven Weyhrich
22 Telecommunications
  Reach Out And Byte Someone
  The Source
AppleLink / America Online
The World Wide Web
01 Pre-Apple History
02 The Apple-1
03 The Apple II
04 The Apple II, Cont.
05 The Disk II
06 The Apple II Plus
07 The Apple IIe
08 The Apple IIc
09 The Apple IIc Plus
10 The Apple IIGS
11 The Apple IIGS, cont.
12 Apple II Abroad / Peripherals
13 Peripherals, Cont.
14 DOS
15 DOS 3.3, ProDOS & Beyond
16 Languages
17 Languages, Cont.
18 Software
19 AppleWorks
20 Magazines
21 Magazines, Cont.
22 Telecommunications
23 Rennaisance?
A Apple II Software Hits
B Apple II Timeline
C Apple Geneology
D Bibliography
  Index of Hypertext Links

v2.0 bullet 31 Dec 02



Since the earliest days that it was available, there have been Apple II users who have found ways to connect to other Apple II computers over the phone. Although some inexpensive imaginative methods have been employed (such as A.P.P.L.E.'s "Apple Box" that used the cassette port to send and receive programs via the phone line), the release of the DC Hayes Micromodem II for the Apple II in 1979 made it possible for a new type of computing. Although some needed to use their Apple II simply as a home terminal to access a school or business mainframe or timesharing system from home, many users created their own self-contained dial-up message systems.

These message systems, which became known as "bulletin board systems" (BBS's), were started almost as soon as the first generation of home computers became popular. The first recorded use of a home computer for the purpose of hosting such a message system was the Computer Bulletin Board System (CBBS) in Chicago, which ran on a Vector 1 computer (an Altair clone). It was designed by Ward Christensen and Randy Suess of the Chicago Area Computer Hobbyist Exchange (CACHE), an early microcomputer user group. The CBBS began in February 1978, and at first was no more than a computerized version of the club's paper-and-thumbtack message board. With time it evolved into a more sophisticated system, allowing exchange of files and other features.[21] Although not run on an Apple II, the event is significant because it was the start of a phenomenon that expanded to include nearly all models of personal computers, and ran strong for over fifteen years, finally waning in popularity because of the rise of the Internet.

A typical BBS consisted of a single computer that was always turned on, waiting to answer the phone. When it rang, the computer would answer the phone and establish two-way communication via the modem. A program running on this computer would then allow the calling computer to do various things, such as reading messages left by other users and posting replies for others to read. As with the original CBBS system, the software used for running Apple II BBS's became more complex over time, allowing file uploads and downloads (to and from the host computer), online games (text-based), and participation in online surveys. The system operator ("sysop") who owned the computer and paid for the phone line used by the BBS was responsible for maintaining the software and the message databases, usually leaving this dedicated computer available for callers 24 hours a day.

There were many reasons for running a BBS. As with Christensen's CBBS, some used it as an online meeting place for user groups. Others had a theme, such as games, programming, or just general upkeep and use of the Apple II. But one particular use of a BBS that made it popular was as a file repository, a place where users could share software they had written.

The ability to transfer files from one Apple II to another has evolved over time. In its simplest form, an Applesoft or Integer BASIC program might be "downloaded" (sent from the BBS to the calling computer) by simply doing a "LIST" of it. That was fine, unless the program had some machine language parts added on. Then, the bytes of that assembly code had to be sent as hex digit pairs (i.e., 20 00 BF 65 10 03 04, etc.), since anything shared between the computers had to be in printable ASCII codes. With the noise possible on some telephone connections, this could result in a single character becoming garbled now and then, resulting in a program that wouldn't run because of the error that was introduced. Various programs for the Apple II were devised over time to make this more efficient, including some that used the method of encoding the hex bytes (digit pairs) into single printable ASCII codes that were then decoded on the receiving end into a usable program. This created a smaller file than the hex digit files that were "EXEC"ed, but was just as prone to data errors.

Apple II BBS's were not the only ones that had to deal with file transfer problems. At least on an Apple II, a text file could be executed with the EXEC command in Apple DOS, and the resulting BASIC or machine language program could be SAVEd or BSAVEd to a disk. But on the S-100 computer series, a file transfer was even more difficult to translate from text to machine code. For this reason, Ward Christensen (who started the CBBS in Chicago) also developed a method to do realiable file transfers. His method, which used error checking to ensure a realiable file transfer, was called X-Modem, and became available in 1979. Because Christensen made it a public domain technique, it began to appear for other platforms beyond the original Intel-based computers, including the Apple II BBS and terminal programs.

As Apple software became more sophisticated, and as the files to send became larger and larger (particularly with the introduction of the IIGS), protocols were established to allow more than one file to be sent in a single transmission. The first major protocol that was agreed upon among the major online services was the Binary II protocol. Designed in 1986 by Gary Little, this allowed a standard method of grouping files that could work for any of the disk formats available on the Apple II. In 1988, Andy Nicholas designed a more comprehensive method of not only putting several files into a single file (usually called an "archive"), but also compressing those files to save time and space when transmitting them between computers. He called this protocol "NuFX" (NuFile eXchange), and implemented it and the data compression in a program called ShrinkIt (and later GS-ShrinkIt) that he released as "freeware" (that is, he did not charge for the use and distribution of his program). The NuFX protocol was adopted by Apple Computer as the official protocol for file transmission for the Apple II, and Nicholas later went to work at Apple after his graduation from the college that he was attending when he designed the protocol.

By the early 1990's there were several popular packages that could be purchased, including ProLine, Warp Six, and AppleNet. However, as the decade progressed, the popularity of BBS's began to wane, with the increasing availability of Internet access, and the wealth of information available through that source.

The success of the small, local systems encouraged the larger, mainframe-based systems to expand and offer services to non-business users during off-peak hours. They figured that since the equipment was idle during that time anyway, they might as well have someone use it and earn them some extra money. By the mid-1990's, most of the major online services that had started in the late 1970's were still in business; competition had increased, the number of users accessing these national systems had grown, the number of features offered has expanded, and the hourly cost of online communication dropped. However, the Internet had a detrimental effect even on these major services, and by the latter part of the decade only a small number of online services still existed. The few online services who survived have struggled (with one exception) to find ways to offer value and maintain their base of paying members.

Since there were far too many local systems to discuss in even a passing manner here, the following will examine the various nationally available systems and their history as it applies to the Apple II. However, before a discussion of commercial services can even start, it is necessary to look at the origins of the biggest "online service" of them all, the Internet. Understanding the creation of the Internet helps to understand much of what was done with the commercial online services, and what is done today with the Internet and the World Wide Web.

ARPANET (1972 - 1990)

When the Soviet Union launched the first Sputnik satelite in 1957, not only was the American public taken by surprise, but also the United States government. To ensure that in the future the U.S. government would have better knowledge of technological advancements taking place around the world, President Dwight Eisenhower authorized formation of a research agency within the Pentagon. The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) had the mission of enabling communication between intelligence sources and the various branches of the military, as well as with the president and the secretary of defense. In order to carry out the task of managing the rapid interchange of information between these various agencies, one important bottleneck they discovered was the different mainframe computer systems used by those agencies. There was no easy means for data on one system to be moved or copied to another except by direct data entry computer, a slow process that could allow the introduction of errors. The director of the ARPA Information Processing Techniques Office had a room next to his office which contained three different types of computer terminals, each made by different companies, and each directly conected to mainframe computers at different sites. They each operated under their own, unique operating system and set of commands, and had a different log-in procedure.[12]

As ARPA began to research ways in which to make it possible for computer installations in widely separated parts of the country to be connected to each other, national security was still foremost in their minds. One essential goal they had was a way for the network as a whole to still function even if part of it was destroyed in a nuclear strike on the country. The telephone network built by AT&T usually had central switching points, where a single location served a large number of customers. If the central switching office was not working, none of the customers would have telephone service. While this was an inconvenience, it was not acceptable for a computer network on which the defense of the United States would depend. So ARPA researchers devised a distributed network, with each node connected to more than one other, allowing a built-in redundancy that would allow the majority of it to continue to function even if parts of it were offline (or even destroyed).

Additionally, the network was designed not only with hardware in pieces all over the country, but the message traffice on the network was designed to be transmitted in pieces. These pieces (message "blocks" or "packets") would possibly take different paths, but when they all arrived at their destination, the computer there would reassembled the packets into a copy of the original message. This packet approach would also allow the computers handling message traffic for the network to make use of nodes that were idle and bypass those that were either busy or not functioning.[13]

During the 1960's the details of this network were mapped out, the hardware was built to handle the traffic between the various nodes across the country, and it was tested. The entire project was a learning process, from the implementation of the data packet concept ("How big should a packet be? What format should it be in?"), to the design of the software to direct routing of the traffic across the network, to the design of the hardware to carry the traffic. The first public demonstration of this network was ready in time for the First International Conference on Computer Communication, held in Washington, DC in October 1972. It required a tremendous effort on the part of those who were finalizing the design and implementation of the components that made up the network, but they managed to make it all work together just in time for the occasion. It was an incredible time event, with most of the researchers working on networking in the country in attendance at the same time, showing how this network could function with many diverse types of hardware (terminals and printers) at the conference site, and at the remote locations to which they were connected.[14]

The ARPANET project was very successful, and eventually the university research groups connected to it wanted to use the network for everything, not just Department of Defense work. The most predominant use of the network was something for which its designers had never forseen: electronic mail. Between 1972 and the early 1980's, network mail (also called electronic mail or "e-mail") was discovered by thousands of users who had occasion to use the network. As the message traffic due to e-mail increased, the network required additional expansion to handle it. According to Katie Hafner, in Where Wizards Stay Up Late,

E-mail was to the ARPANET what the Louisiana Purchase was to the young United States. Things only got better as the network grew and technology converged with the human tendency to talk. Electronic mail would become the long-playing record of cyberspace. Just as the LP was invented for connoisseurs and audiophiles but spawned an entire industry, electronic mail grew first among the elite community of computer scientists on the ARPANET, then later bloomed like plankton across the Internet.[15]

In 1972, the name of ARPA ("Advanced Research Projects Agency") was changed to DARPA ("Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency"), to stress the role the organization had played from the start, that being to help with the defense of the United States. With the ARPANET concept functioning and flourishing, DARPA decided to find a different group within the government to take over management of it, and the Defense Communications Agency (DCA) was given that task in the summer of 1975. Interestingly, when the DCA was first offered to manage ARPANET when it was just a concept in the mid-1960's, it declined, disbelieving that a decentralized, packet-sending network had any advantages over the communications methods that were already in place. With ARPANET being managed elsewhere, DARPA was free to move its research money to other experiemental areas.[16]

By this time, other computer networks had come into being, not under the jurisdiction or control of DARPA. And with other implementations of networks came alternate methods of interconnecting the computers within those networks, methods that differed (sometimes significantly) with those chosen by the DARPA researchers. In Hawaii, where land connections were not easy to create to link the islands, there was a network (called ALOHANet) that used radio transmitters to send signals between computers on a network. DARPA also looked at the use of satellite ("SATNet") transmission of network packets to exchange data between computers. And other countries had come up with their own unique computer networking protocols.

The presence of these different networks brought about similar problems as those face by ARPA in the 1960's, when it first tried to make individual mainframe computers communicate with each other. How was it possible to make different networks able to exchange data between each other, when they often used different connection methods, packet sizes, transmission rates, and error-checking protocols? DARPA then decided it needed to address ways to overcome this problem, and in May 1974 a paper was published that proposed use of a transmission-control protocol (TCP) to manage carrying data between different networks. According to Hafner,

The new scheme worked in much the same way that shipping containers are used to transfer goods. The boxes have a standard size and shape. They can be filled with anything from televisions to underwear to automobiles -- content doesn't matter. They move by ship, rail, or truck. A typical container of freight travels by all three modes at various stages to reach its destination. The only thing necessary to ensure cross-compatibility is the specialized equipment used to transfer the containers from one mode of transport ot the next. The cargo itself doesn't leave the container until it reaches its destination.[16]

As further work was done on finding ways to implement the TCP plan, an additional Internet Protocol (IP) was created to handle routing of the data packages the TCP handled. By 1978, the full protocol was referred to as TCP/IP.[18]

Meanwhile, universities that were not part of ARPANET wanted network access, but a connection to this Department of Defense system would cost an institution $100,000 per year. The National Science Foundation was interested in aiding computer sciences departments in universities, and so helped design CSNET (Computer Science Research Network), a less expensive system. It would not be as fast as ARPANET and did not contain the redundancy ARPANET required, but it made the computer networking connections more affordable. It made use of TELENET, a commercial packet-switching service that started in 1973.

Other networks began to come into being after this. BITNET ("Because It's Time Network") interconnected IBM systems. UUCP was created at Bell Laboratories to handle file transfers and remote command execution. USENET began in 1980 to handle communication between two universities, and developed into a distributed news network. All of these diverse networks had the ability to communicate with each other due to the TCP/IP protocol.[19] By 1982, the term "Internet" was used for the first time to describe this collection of networks. The continued addition of networks began to blur the distinction between the parts of the Internet that were sponsored by the U.S. government and those that simply connected into the network.

One change that became necessary was the way in which e-mail was handled. From its earliest days, e-mail had been transmitted using the original file transfer protocol, which worked nicely for files, but was awkward for mail. In August 1982, the simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) was devised to replace the older system. As part of this new protocol, new names had to be devised to be able to distinguish between different networks on the Internet. The committee working on this decided upon seven "domains" that could be used for various types of networks: "edu" for educational; "com" for a company; "gov" for government; "mil" for military; "org" for a non-profit organization; "net" for a network service provider; and "int" for an international treaty entity. These domain names also allowed for automatic translation of names into the numeric addresses that the computers routing the information actually used, with the help of a domain name server (DNS).

As useful as ARPANET and the Internet had become, the speed of communication became a problem as more and more nodes were added on to it. In 1985, the National Science Foundation began creation of NSFNET, a backbone to connect supercomputer centers from several places in the United States. The power, speed, and capacity of this new network exceeded that of ARPANET, and eventually made it obsolete. In 1990 it was decided to shut down ARPANET, and allow the various computers connected to it to connect instead to the faster NSFNET.[19]

THE SOURCE (1979 - 1989)

The Source began in 1979 and lasted until 1989. For much of its life, it was owned by Reader's Digest. It was accessible through Telenet or Tymnet nodes; that is, through computers in a locality that act as gateways to many other online computer services across the country. (Often there is an additional fee for using the Telenet or Tymnet node, in addition to the charges for the specific service being accessed). The Source had many services available online, including over twenty financial and business services, access to several national and international news services, and computer-specific news features. An online encyclopedia, shopping, interactive games, and airline reservations were also available. One feature unique to The Source was the capability to create "scripts" that the mainframe kept track of (rather than being on the user's local terminal program disk). These scripts could be used to quickly move to certain areas and perform repetitive functions (such as scanning and reading electronic mail, and checking for new files in the library).

The Apple II had a presence on The Source from its earliest days, but the APPLESIG was updated in 1987, and Joseph Kohn (who has written articles for inCider/A+, had worked with the Big Red Computer Club, and now has his own newsletter, Shareware Solutions II) was the chief sysop. He operated the APPLESIG from May 1987 until The Source closed down.

Kohn worked to make APPLESIG a major information source for Apple II users. Registered with Apple as a user group, they had expert advice available, as well as a large library of articles and software. The online charges were lower for APPLESIG, which also made it attractive for users. As with other online services, a bulletin board section was also maintained for ongoing discussions between users about various topics of interest. They also had an online presence maintained by The Apple IIGS Buyer's Guide, and were allowed to reprint articles from MicroTimes and A+ Magazine.[3]

According to Kohn, one thing that likely contributed to the demise of The Source was their insistence on a $10 monthly minimum charge, long after other national online services had either eliminated or significantly lowered such charges. Another problem that he identified was that their system was not as easy to use as some other services (although former users feel that the Source's library search protocol was better than any other). The Source was bought out by CompuServe, and its subscribers merged with that service in 1989.[4],[5]


This service originally began as "Compu-Serv" in 1969 as an in-house computer processing center for Golden United Life Insurance Co. During the next ten years they expanded their offerings to business users, and by 1972 had over four hundred accounts across the country. In 1977 the name was officially changed to "CompuServe Incorporated." and by 1979 they were ready to begin offering service to computer hobbyists. Their new service was called MicroNET, and it started on July 1, 1979 after two months of testing with the 1,200 members of the Midwest Affiliation of Computer Clubs. Items available online were bulletin boards, databases, and games. Soon after they started this, an Apple II special interest group was begun. It gave itself the name "MAUG" (for "MicroNetted Apple User Group").

In 1980, CompuServe merged with H&R Block, and changed their personal computer service name from MicroNET to CompuServe Information Service. They have continued to expand their services and capabilities through the years, and are widely available across the country.[6]

Each user on CompuServe is assigned an eight or nine digit ID code, divided into five digits, a comma, and then the other three or four digits. For example, a user's code might be 76543,4321. When directing electronic mail to a specific user, it is necessary to use that ID code so the system knows exactly which Joe Smith you want to receive your message.

The bulletin board and message sections on CompuServe are divided up into Forums, usually dedicated to a specific service. The MAUG section covers more than one forum, since the volume of message traffic is too large to manage in a single forum. Messages within a forum are organized under major subject, and then under minor subjects. Each message is assigned a number, and the various messages are linked together into "threads". For instance, user #1 asks a question about a brand of modem. User #2 links his answer to that message and answers the original question. User #3 also answers the question, but adds a comment about terminal programs. User #4 picks up on that comment, and adds his views about the terminal program that he likes, without mentioning anything about the modem question that user #1 asked. And on it goes. Eventually, the topic will probably die out, to be restarted later by someone else when it is necessary. The message thread can be followed when reading these posts, or you could simply read all the messages sequentially by their message number. A sequential scan would read all messages about all topics, whether the messages were connected or not. Following the thread pursues one conversation; following all of the messages pursues all conversations that are going on.

One problem that can occur with this type of system depends on the volume of message traffic. The software that CompuServe uses will assign a new number to each new message, but when the total number of messages has passed a certain point, the first messages will be deleted. If the range of messages when signing on Monday runs from 15000 to 17000, by Tuesday it may run from 15500 to 17500 (and the first 500 messages from 15000 to 15499 have disappeared). If there are any especially useful conversations going on, the Sysop (system operator) for that forum may choose to save the messages and their threads into a file in the library for access in the future by those who were not involved in the conversations when they were going on.

Each forum on CompuServe has the capability of supporting live conferences, where many users can be present at the same time and hold live interactive conversations (as opposed to the bulletin board conversations where you must post a message, and then log on later to see if there has been a reply to it).

The MAUG libraries hold programs that have been uploaded for years; some are from the early part of the 1980's (if you can wait for the file scan to get back that far). Of course, there are also many files that are new, and they are added daily by the active people there.

As with the other major online systems, there are many other services available online besides the MAUG forums, including news services, online shopping, games, and much more.[7]

DELPHI (1982 - Present)

In 1982 the General Videotex Corporation began an online service called Delphi (probably named after the oracle of ancient Greek mythology). They have not been a major player in the competition for customers between national online services, but neither have they succumbed to financial pressure and passed away. Like The Source, they are accessible through Telenet and Tymnet. They have had an Apple II SIG (Special Interest Group) since around 1985. Erik Kloeppel has been head Sysop for that SIG for the past several years.

In January 1992, General Videotex purchased the BIX online service operated by Byte magazine in an effort to enlarge Delphi and increase its market share.

GENIE (1985 - 1999)

GEnie is owned and operated by General Electric, and the name stands for "General Electric Network for Information Exchange". It has been in business since 1985, and, like other online systems, offers many different services to its subscribers, including news, an online encyclopedia, online shopping, games, financial information, and areas of interest to users of various brands of computers.

Where CompuServe's sections are called Forums, GEnie calls their sections Roundtables (or RTs for short). Each RT is divided up into a bulletin board, library, and conference rooms (called "Real Time Conferences." or RTC's). The bulletin board is divided up into a number of categories, and each category consists of a number of topics. Each topic then has individual messages that (hopefully) deal with that topic. Unlike CompuServe, messages will not disappear from a topic until the Sysop decides to delete them (and this does not occur until the number of messages either get too large to be manageable, or they become old and outdated). If a topic contains messages that are particularly helpful (such as information about the use of a common computer utility program), the messages may stay up for years. If it becomes necessary to purge old messages, they may be placed into the library so they are still available for reading in the future.

As for user ID's, GEnie decided to use a combination of letters and other symbols to give each user a unique name, instead of the number system CompuServe employs. A new user is typically assigned a user name that consists of their first initial, a period, and their last name. If there is another user with the same user name at that point, a number is added. For instance, Joe Smith would be given the name J.SMITH; if there already are three Joe Smith's on the system, then this name would be changed to J.SMITH4 to tell him apart from the other ones. A user may ask for a different name (for a price) if the one assigned to him or her is not satisfactory. These tend to be as varied as vanity license plates on automobiles. If J.SMITH4 owns a restaurant, he may ask GEnie to give him a name such as EAT.AT.JOES instead of his original name.

GEnie started supporting the Apple II computer on October 27th, 1985, about five days prior to its going public. Kent Fillmore was the first Apple Information Manager, and the first Sysop was Cathy Christiansen. Fillmore started the "America Apple RoundTable" (AART), for the Apple ][ and /// Computers, as well as the A2PRO RT (Apple II Programmers) with Michael Fischer (MFISCHER), A+ Magazine RT with Maggie Canon (A.PLUS), the Apple/Mac User Group RT with Leonard Reed (BIBLIA), the ProTree RT with Bob Garth (PROTREE), and the GEnie Sysop's private RoundTable.[8] Fillmore left GEnie in October 1987 and Tom Weishaar took over some of those RTs. Fillmore later returned to GEnie in June 1992 to become the Product Manager for Computing RoundTables/ChatLines.[9]

To stay competitive with older and sometimes larger information services, GEnie has usually kept its online costs below those of the other systems. The association with Tom Weishaar and his newsletter, A2-Central (originally Open-Apple), has been beneficial for both. GEnie's 100,000th member in March 1988 was an Apple II user that joined because of a special offer through Open-Apple. And Weishaar has been able to keep more direct contact with Apple II users, from both those who work professionally with the II to those who use their Apple II's for special purposes only.[10]

AMERICA ONLINE (1988 - Present)

Beginning in May 1988, Apple Computer contracted with Quantum Computer Services to start a consumer version of its AppleLink network. Apple's original network, in operation since 1985, had been used primarily for communication functions within Apple Computer and its various sites across the country, as well as a source of technical support for certified Apple developers. When their new consumer service, AppleLink-Personal Edition (ALPE) was introduced, they changed the name of the original network to AppleLink-Industrial Edition. Apple's hope was to use ALPE as a method of providing better support to its customers.

AppleLink-Personal Edition was unique for an online computer service in its use of a custom terminal program. Rather than requiring the user, (possibly a novice) to spend a lot of time in learning how to use a terminal program, a modem, and ALPE, Quantum and Apple designed a special program that handled all the communications details, including the sign-on password. Each time that the user signed-off from ALPE, a new, randomly selected password was selected and saved on the ALPE disk for the next time. ALPE was aware of this password, and so the chances of someone breaking in on another user's account and using time (and money!) was nearly eliminated.

The ALPE terminal program was intuitive, as was the use of the Macintosh (and Apple IIGS) desktop interface. Icons (pictures of desired functions) were selected with the mouse or cursor (depending on how you had it configured). Making the call and logging in were handled by the terminal program, transparently to the user. When the connection was made, a choice between Apple-specific services and ALPE general services was available. The general section was directed to entertainment, business services, online shopping, and general education. There was also a place for playing online games, alone or with other users. An "auditorium" could be used for members to attend conferences with special guests, allowing direct questions and answers with the guests.

The Apple Community section was the part most important to the dedicated Apple II (or Macintosh) user. Here direct contact with Apple Computer, Inc. was available (through the "Headquarters" icon), as well as other hardware and software vendors. Apple product announcements and information about products in testing could be found here, as well as direct access to Apple engineers and developers. There were Forums (special interest groups) for various aspects of Apple computing, Apple University (with courses on productivity, programming, and specialized software applications), and Software (library of available programs for downloading).

In 1990, AppleLink-Personal Edition was modified to connect with the services Quantum provided for other home computers, and the name was changed to America Online. It was still slightly less expensive than the other major online services, and because of the icon-based terminal software, still the easiest to use for the beginner.[11]

The main benefit for an Apple II user on a large, online service such as those described above is the availability of many experienced users that can provide prompt, timely answers to questions or problems. Some hardware and software companies maintain an online presence, to allow immediate feedback for their customers with technical problems. There are also many files in the libraries on these services, providing software at low cost, some quite professionally written. Apple Computer has also allowed most of these services to act as official "user groups." and so have availability of official technical notes and file type description notes for the Apple II series.

THE WORLD WIDE WEB (1990 - Present)

One early use of the Internet that went beyond typical e-mail was the development of newsgroups. In 1979, two Duke university graduate students created a means to allow them to share information with the Unix community at large, while another student at the University of North Carolina wrote the first software program to handle a news. These messages differed from typical e-mail because they were sent out to large numbers of people at a time, rather than the usually smaller group of people to whom e-mail was typically sent. To receive messages that were broadcast to the group would require subscribing to that group, and any message sent to the group would go to all subscribing members.

The messages were sent out on the UUCP network (which was fee-based), and sometimes using the NNTP network (which was free). Although they started out with messages being held until specifically asked for by a subscribing system, it is now more common to have the news connections open continuously, so that a message appears almost immediately after it is posted.

With the widespread penetration of the Internet across the country in colleges and universities, many different groups and forums developed, including ones that were specific to the Apple II. Since the newsgroups on the Internet were already in existence when the Apple II was first released, and long before any home users with modems created single-user bulletin board systems, newsgroups probably represent the first online message "service" available for the Apple II. The original newsgroup dedicated to Apple II topics was called "comp.sys.apple", although in 1990 its name was changed to "comp.sys.apple2" to distinguish it from newsgroups that were dedicated to Apple Computer's other major product, the Macintosh. Using Internet addresses, Apple II users were even able to communicate directly with employees of Apple who had accounts that were accessible to the Internet.[1],[2]

Unlike the commercial online services, which usually took steps to make sure that everyone participating "played nice", Internet news groups tended to be anarchic, run by their own standards. With free access to literally anyone with an Internet-ready account, there were few rules of behavior that had to be observed. Anything from disagreements to arguments to all-out virtual fights could occur, and there was little that anyone could do (or wanted to do) to reign it in. Although it was (and still is to this day) a good source of information, it could be difficult to participate.


[1]   E'Sex, Lunatic. GEnie, A2 Roundtable, Feb 1992, Category 2, Topic 16.
[2]   Bouchard, J. GEnie, A2 Roundtable, Jan 1992, Category 12, Topic 7.
[3]   Kohn, Joseph. "The Source." Call-A.P.P.L.E. Jan 1989: 25-28.
[4]   Kohn, Joseph. E-mail. Feb 1992.
[5]   Utter, Gary. GEnie, A2 Roundtable, Feb 1992, Category 2, Topic 16.
[6]   Gerber, Carole Houze. "Online Yesterday Today And Tomorrow." Online Today. CompuServe Information Service Newsletter, Jul 1989: 12-19.
[7]   Apfelstadt, Marc. "All About CompuServe." Call-A.P.P.L.E. Nov 1988: 44-47.
[8]   E'Sex, Lunatic. GEnie, A2 Roundtable, Feb 1992, Category 2, Topic 16.
[9]   Fillmore, Kent. GEnie, A2 Roundtable, Sep 1991, Category 2, Topic 16.
[10]   Weishaar, Tom. "All About GEnie: General Electric's Online Information Service." Call-A.P.P.L.E. Sep 1988: 46-50.
[11]   Cooper, Vince. "AppleLink-Personal Edition." Call-A.P.P.L.E. Jul-Aug 1988: 8-13.
[12]   Hafner, Katie & Matthew Lyon. Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet. New York, Simon & Schuster, 1996: 13-14.
[13]   Hafner: 57-67.
[14] Hafner: 176-186.
[15] Hafner: 189.
[16] Hafner: 219, 235.
[17] Hafner: 227.
[18] Hafner: 236-237.
[19] Hafner: 243-244.
[20] Hafner: 254-256.
[21] Derfler. Jr., Frank L. "Dial Up Directory". Kilobaud Microcomputing Magazine, April 1980: 80-82. (reproduced on "An Interview With Ward Christensen and Randy Suess", Larry's Commodore Pages (Dec 2002) http://www.portcommodore.com/commodore/bbs/cbbs.html)
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