24 September 1979: Compuserve launches MicroNET

One of the first steps to the internet we know and love was taken today on this day in 1979, when Compuserve launched its MicroNET service.

Back in 1979, personal computers – then known as microcomputers – were in their infancy; they included models such as the Atari 400, Apple II, Commodore PET, and TRS-80. In 1979, there was no world wide web, no social media, and email was unheard of for the general public.

That began to change on this day, with the arrival of Compuserve's MicroNET service. “Compu-Serv” was originally set up in 1969 as a subsidiary of Golden United Life Insurance to provide support to the company, and sell time on its mainframes to other businesses. Eventually, it decided to branch out and let the public in.

The MicroNET service allowed users access to the company's mainframes at night. For $5 an hour, (plus the cost of the phone call) they could run programs, email each other, and read news articles from the Associated Press.

The service was a hit, and on 1 July, 1980 MicroNET was rebranded as the CompuServe Information Service, or CIS. It added more features, including discussion forums and online shopping. By 1987, CIS had 380,000 subscribers, and was bringing in 50% of CompuServe's revenues.

It dominated the market in the 1980s and early 1990s. But inevitably, its success bred competition. A new upstart, AOL, arrived, marketed at people who knew very little about computers or the internet. It did away with the geeky text commands, and introduced a user-friendly graphical interface.

In 1998, AOL bought Compuserve. The service was shut down for good in July 2009. In 2015, AOL was itself bought by Verizon Communications.

Recommended

Why we will be reliant on fossil fuels for a long time to come
Energy

Why we will be reliant on fossil fuels for a long time to come

The energy crisis has shown us just how reliant we still are on fossil fuels. And we will continue to rely on them for a long time yet, says Merryn So…
27 Sep 2021
The UK stockmarket is cheap – but is it cheap for good reasons?
UK stockmarkets

The UK stockmarket is cheap – but is it cheap for good reasons?

Compared to other developed-world markets, UK stocks are remarkably cheap. But a number of factors means the discount could be well-deserved, says Max…
27 Sep 2021
Clive Sinclair: the father of the home computer
People

Clive Sinclair: the father of the home computer

Clive Sinclair was a serial inventor and visionary whose output also included the prototype electric car. His other interests included poetry, maratho…
27 Sep 2021
Invest in a promising new chapter at RIT Capital Partners
Investment trusts

Invest in a promising new chapter at RIT Capital Partners

The long-standing chairman of the RIT Capital Partners investment trust stepped down in 2019, but the new team are doing very well, says Max King.
27 Sep 2021

Most Popular

A nightmare 1970s scenario for investors is edging closer
Investment strategy

A nightmare 1970s scenario for investors is edging closer

Inflation need not be a worry unless it is driven by labour market shortages. Unfortunately, writes macroeconomist Philip Pilkington, that’s exactly w…
17 Sep 2021
What really causes inflation? Here’s what prices since 1970 tell us
Inflation

What really causes inflation? Here’s what prices since 1970 tell us

As UK inflation hits 3.2%, Dominic Frisby compares the cost of living 50 years ago with that of today, and explains how debt drives prices higher.
15 Sep 2021
The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest
Small cap stocks

The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest

We are living in strange times. But the basics of investing remain the same: buy fairly-priced stocks that can provide an income. And there are few be…
13 Sep 2021