Personal Archaeology: Remember Prodigy?

My daughter was cleaning out the family room when she came up with this and asked why it was addressed to me (at a very old, no longer valid, address by the way).  It had been bouncing around my belongings for at least two decades and was currently full of colored pencils:

Prodigy Gift Tube, 1990

When I was a kid of 19 years old (now that I’m in my forties that qualifies as a “kid”) I had a computer.  It was sweet: a Tandy 1000TL 286-based speed demon (here’s an internal sales video of how Radio Shack marketed and sold them).  It ran DOS applications and Tandy’s home-grown “Deskmate” graphical interface and, as you’re told in the video, could even remember the current date and time!

Anyway I had recently gotten this computer – having upgraded from a venerable TI99/4A – and was looking to get online.  I had used local BBS systems (with my 300 baud acoustic coupling modem) for some time but back then “local” was pretty much equivalent with “the ass end of nowhere” (at least digitally).  This new computer was outfitted with an incredibly fast 1200 baud modem and so when Prodigy was announced in my area I jumped at the service.  Prodigy offered a graphical interface (one that was fully mouse compatible!) to play games, manage primitive (closed) email and talk on remarkably active discussion groups.  To put it bluntly, was the total shit.

In any case shortly after I registered, this tube came in the mail.  In it was a foam mouse pad and a letter thanking me for being one of the first people in my area to join to the service.  The mouse pad long since disintegrated.  I dropped my Prodigy account shortly after AOL’s vastly improved service was released (yes, believe it or not at one point AOL really was legitimately the best way to be online).  I supposed there’s some irony in the fact that the cardboard tube used to send meaningless swag has long outlived the service that sent it.

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