Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Goodbye, 75152,3640

A dozen years ago, after several months using bulletin boards, I signed up for CompuServe. In those far-off days, the service CompuServe offered was invaluable. In addition to research, email, and eventually Web service, it had forums on every conceivable topic. A CIS forum offered up to 23 bulletin boards (called sections), each with its own library and chat room. The Cooks’ Forum had sections on meats, vegetables, baking, spices, desserts, holidays, gadgets—fascinating discussions, places where you could ask or offer advice. In addition, most forums had a few scheduled real-time conferences, and they all enabled live private chats.

Different forums emphasized different features. Some were mainly libraries for files to download; others had lively discussion boards but few conferences; still others were chatty places where nobody ever looked at the section messages.

CIS users tended to be intelligent people, and many of the forums became solid communities. The support forum where I served as sysop certainly was; in one calendar year, there were a dozen marriages between people who had met there—and that didn’t include the non-legalized relationships. And we weren’t the only ones. After a gap of 8 or 10 years, I went back to the Litforum. Many of the same users were still there.

It’s been a few years since I was seriously involved in the CompuServe forums, and the main support forum I frequented is gone, killed off by the explosion of the Internet. So today I reluctantly cancelled the account I had held so long. I was proud of the CompuServe Classic account, all numeric and starting with 7, that showed how very long I’d been online there. Now it’s closed.

CIS changed my life. Without the tough, honest feedback of other people in a medium I could handle, I might never have found the strength to get out of my marriage. I wouldn’t know Michele or many other old friends I met in the forum. I wouldn’t have moved to California. My life would be unimaginable.

Goodbye, 75152,3640. You served me well.

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