CompuServe’s Forums Are Closing On December 15

Sad news: the CompuServe forums are closing down. Admittedly, they have been declining for years and the end always appeared to be inevitable. Still, it is sad news when it the shutdown is finally announced. Many online genealogists got their start on CompuServe’s Genealogy Forum.

You can read more about the closure of CompuServe’s forums at: http://bit.ly/2zKhN5T.

I feel especially saddened as I was the one who founded the Genealogy Forum on CompuServe in 1988. It was my first entry into online publishing and running a discussion board. While CompuServe canceled my contract years ago and I moved on to other things, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the Genealogy Forum on CompuServe.

CompuServe was the largest online service for several years. The company made numerous changes over the years but, in hindsight, the changes were not enough to compete with that new thing called the World Wide Web. As the Web grew and grew, CompuServe kept shrinking and shrinking. Eventually, the reduction in customers led to huge financial constraints. CompuServe downsized and downsized, eventually selling the company to AOL.

By chance, I was in CompuServe’s headquarters building in Columbus, Ohio for a forum managers’ meeting on the morning the sale of the company was announced to employees and to the rest of the world. There were some long faces in the building that day! The following day, a V.P. of AOL flew to Columbus and spoke to the employees and then spoke separately to the forum managers’ meeting. He promised us that AOL would maintain CompuServe as a separate business entity and would not make any major changes. He lied.

AOL started making major changes to CompuServe within two or three weeks. Amongst the first announced changes, AOL canceled all the contracts of the forum managers. I left and moved to the World Wide Web. (In hindsight, I am now delighted with that move.) In the following months, most of the CompuServe employees in the Columbus headquarters were laid off and replaced with AOL employees in Virginia. The CompuServe headquarters building was soon empty and then was leased to a different company that is not in any computer-related business.

AOL soon encountered its own financial problems and that company went through several changes of ownership. What is left of the original AOL is now a Verizon subsidiary called “Oath” and the new owners continue to downsize.

The result?

“The King is dead, long live the King!”

In this case, the first “King” is the former largest online service in the world, CompuServe. The new “King” is the World Wide Web.

21 Comments

“He promised us that AOL would maintain CompuServe as a separate business entity and would not make any major changes. He lied.”

Not sure why companies during a take over almost ALWAYS seem to say “no changes” and by definition there are changes day 1. I have been through 2 in my past work life and were told the same. Both had the same 2 or 3 weeks before major stuff began to occur.

HOWEVER, the company I currently work for just went through a buy out this past summer. I have to hand it to our parent company, they told us up front there will be changes, they would just try to minimize them and communicate them as much as possible. So far they have been good to their word.

Yes I was on the CompuServe genealogy forum years ago. Sad to see these changes.

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So many wonderful memories of “our community” there in those early “pioneer” days, Dick. Friendships made and enjoyed long distance, in-person meet-ups at conferences. Personal connections with new friends I value still, almost 30 years later …. like you!

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    Sandy and Dick, Met you both there and you have both helped me over the years. My undying gratitude to you both. Who would have thought then that we would ever have access to all the www facilities that exist now.

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CompuServe was my first real (ad)venture into the Internet and when I found the Genealogy Forum I was hooked on it. Wonderful people there – Hi Sandy! – and I’ve kept in touch with a few and been on cruises with others like Betty Clay. Betty who soldiered on with CompuServe for so long. I just realized I’ve been “doing” Genealogy for almost 56 years now and would never have managed to get so far with it without the Genealogy Forum – all the help and information freely given was a god send. So many intelligent, helpful, interesting and good people were there and we all worked together to help others. Thanks for all your work, Dick, there and ever since. However a great memory it all is, the “new and improved” EOGN has been such a great place to be these past years.
Are there any other ‘old’ CompuServe Forum members here to check in for old times sake?

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    Hello Mary
    Remember me? I’m an ‘old’ CompuServe Forum Member and I’m still around! We had some great times on the Forum (remember Beryl Pine’s ‘Pink Screen’ thread?). We met some great people, made new friends, and like Sandy said, had some great meets, especially when the Americans came to England. Sadly, we also had a few ‘spats’ (remember the ‘Historical Lies’ thread?) but soon got over them, thanks mostly to Betty Clay and the Sysops.
    Thanks to the Genealogy Forum, the Society Of Genealogists had a constant supply of Committee Members!
    And I am the ‘real’ Jeanne Bunting – the original one!

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    I’m srill here, Mary. We’ve had some wonderful times…times we’d never have known had we not met on Compuserve. I’m very sad to see it go, but it’s such a tiny shadow of what it one was. I hope we’ll all continue to meet online. ‘Twas a marvelous colletion of friendly people.

    bh

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    I too was a long time member of Dick’s genealogy forum, and have very much missed the friendships made there. So happy to see still familiar names popping up here. I am surprised to learn CServe is still alive, but not for long now. It was good times then, when we were all still learning and being amazed that we could so easily communicate with people around the world. Fun times. WWW seems cold in comparison.

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At that point in my life, I wasn’t involved in genealogy research, but CompuServe was my initial entree into the online world using a speedy 1200k baud modem. Downloading files, as small as they were, was painfully slow, but the forums were a rich source of information. I didn’t stick around long enough to get AOL’d. And now we’re exchanging information wirelessly, me on a cell phone, with much more processing power than the computer I used then.

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If my memory serves me correctly, there was a big two-page spread about Dick and the Genealogy Forum in the Compuserve Magazine one month. I think that was my first introduction to the Forum, and Dick. Inititally I think we had to dial in from Australia, so I couldn’t be on there very long. Later Compuserve came to Australia. Can’t remember what happened to that. Too long ago.
So, ever since then I have been following Dick and his genealogical words of wisdom, and after all these years, had the thrill of finally getting to meet him at Rootstech last February.
Keep up the good work Dick.

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My first introduction to Dick Eastman was on the Compuserve forum. So very glad for the experience Dick. Sad, so Sad. Compuserve was Huge, Really Huge

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Wow! That brings back memories! TRS80, 1200 baud modem, $12.00 an hour for Compuserve. My budget was pretty much one hour a month.

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Like many of you, I “met” Dick Eastman on Compuserve. As interesting and educational as it was then, just comparing it with what we have today is amazing.
And we STILL have Dick Eastman.

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I was on CompuServe before 1990. Do Genealogy Forum messages that old still exist?
Just want to look back.

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    In the early days, Compuserve messages ‘scrolled off’ when the limited space was all filled up and each new message deleted the oldest one. Some years ago, the space limitation no longer existed. i think it was about 2003 when they stopped deleting messages altogether, and most of those were kept. Sometimes you can find your old ones with a search engine. I know I’ve found some I posted many years ago using Google. I suspect they may disappear now, though. I hve not asked about that, but maybe I can still find out. I’m still there. I could just never come to the point of leaving altogether.

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So long ago. I posted to the Bulletin Boards a number of times. They were very helpful. I also remember Myra Vanderpool Gormley from back then.

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I remember attending a computer user genealogy conference of some sort in 1998 (?) in Salt Lake and met you, Dick, and an older woman who also might have been one of the original forum members? What an inspiration she was to me. Since nothing is supposedly ever deleted from the internet, are those old forum logs anywhere to be found?

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Wow. That really takes me back. I recall at the time how miraculous I thought it was that we were discussing genealogy in that manner.

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I joined the Forum in 1992 just after I started FH research based on my mother-in-law’s ramblings. She is still rambling on about family -105th birthday due next week! I only really got involved with the Society of Genealogist because the computer group wanted to demo the Forum at the London Family History Show and my expertise in connecting modems (ex telco) was in demand. Good times

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How well I remember. That’s where I first met you, Dick. Those were the days we had our own internet services house to house….long time ago!!!

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so many of the message boards and forums are dying out. The boards are filled with important information which becomes lost or unavailable.

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I too was an early compuServe user and first met you there. I loved those days and am sad that they ended.

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