Mass Media & Technology

Internet on your TV

Remember back in the early 2000s when that was a thing companies thought should exist? (January 2021)

This site closed in March 2021 and is now a read-only archive
Ste Founding member

Of course the concept of 100 free hours was just that - 100 free hours via freephone number. Back in the days before Freeserve came along, one had to pay the phone call charges AND the charges to AOL/Compuserve, and it was only at dial-up speed, something like (if you're lucky) 28kbps. You were considered top dog if you had a modem that could connect at the then breakneck speeds of 56kbps.

I didn't think the 100 hours free was even via a freephone number, just you could use AOL / Compuserve for 100 hours without paying the monthly fee to them. The actual dialup number was via a local PoP (pop point of presence) which was in the same area code as your house and therefore it just cost a local call.

I remember first getting CompuServe in late 1995, the basic monthly fee (can't remember if it was £5 or £10 per month) only gave a limited number of hours e.g. 10 hours connection and you still had to to pay the phone call charges plus an extra charge to Compuserve for going over the 10 hours (not sure of the exact number). Although we had a 28.8 kbit/s modem, our local PoP in Preston or Liverpool only supported 9 kbit/s at first so the speed was limited to that. We could connect to a Manchester site which I thinks supported 14.4kbit per second but that wasn't a local call for us.

As you say when Freeserve came about and also BT offered packages with free evening and weekend calls then it made things much easier and cheaper.

I also remember an ISP called X-Stream in the late 90s which gave free access via an 0800 number on weekends until midday (I think) but you had to install their dialer software which placed a banner across the top of your screen showing adverts. Because of the amount of users it would also be quite slow to use and take many attempts to connect without just getting the engaged tone.
Steve in Pudsey
People do collect the AOL/Compuserve CDs that were given away free either by people requesting them or finding them bundled with every magazine, comic, book, and God only knows what else. Though the trend at the moment seems to be the versions of the disks that were in the US (I dare say the UK ones were pretty much the same only with a different dial-up number).

They actually weren't, the software was regionalised with different audio files ("Welcome to AOL", "you have email" etc in a British accent that if it wasn't Joanna Lumley was a good impersonation, rather than an American man), and a different welcome screen. I think the UK one was there to expunge any reference to "America Online" which was never used in the UK.

It took time for updates to hit the UK, so many people would use the newer US release one in the hope of it being a little less buggy.
Spoiler alert: it rarely was.
I'm sure from memory the disks had the US and UK versions on them (and probably some other countries too), you just chose on installation where you were and it installed the appropriate one. Could be misremembering hough.

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