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(Seductive enough that most mainstream coverage of chat at the time focused on a phenomenon dubbed “Compu Sex.”) “To say this typewritten “human contact” or “people typing in their thoughts” is the equivalent of genuine friendship or intimacy is something else,” wrote Vic Sussman, struggling to understand the very concept of online community for The Washington Post in 1986.“It’s certainly the illusion of intimacy — the instant gratification of human contact without responsibility or consequences or actual involvement …Yahoo Messenger axed its public chat rooms in 2012, explaining only that they weren’t a “core Yahoo!product.” And when MSN Messenger shuts down Friday in China, the last place where the service still operated, it will mark the conclusive end of the mainstream chatroom era.[But] the danger is that going online instead of going into the real world ultimately turns conversation into a spectator sport.” For users, of course, this kind of outsider bemusement was half the motivation.The Web didn’t achieve anything like mainstream usage until well into the ‘90s; before then, the people sitting through many, many minutes of dial-up bleeps and buzzes, all to talk to pseudonymous strangers, were a very particular breed: hobbyists and early adopters and other technophilic types, each drawn to this peculiar experiment in part because it was peculiar, and its results were far from known.PLATO had been designed for classroom use; according to its creators’ original plans, “communication between people would play [only] an incidental role.” But as more people signed on to the community, its participants began to notice something striking: In the freewheeling, pseudonymous realm of PLATO, people began to form highly personal, social connections that had nothing to do with academics. “People met and got acquainted in Talkomatic, and carried on romances via “term-talk” and Personal Notes,” one of its creators, David Woolley, wrote in his 1994 history of the program. Many people traveled to Urbana to see the lab and meet those of us who worked there …Over the years, PLATO has affected many lives in profound ways.” Of course, PLATO could only reach so many people.
And like other modern attempts to reincarnate the ‘90s chat room (Airtime, anyone?Character Creation Form: Send in your character form in a reply here. Personality: Include 3 good traits, and 3 bad traits. You never knew quite what, or who, you would find in a Compuserve chat — or, later, a chat on AOL (c. AOL’s chief architect and longest-serving employee, Joe Schober, once described the earliest AOL chatrooms as “little frontier towns”: small and unpolished, perhaps, but pioneering — like a spark in the big Internet void.If the Internet was an uncharted wilderness, however, the ‘90s were its Gold Rush.
Group: Are they a member of the Fireflies, Military, Hunters, Cannibals?