Today, I put my oldest computer to bed. It was purchased in October 1996, and was running Windows 98. Technically, it was retired about 18 months ago, but it sat in a room waiting for data harvesting for all that time. Tonight I did that, and the harvest was good.

Once I had what I needed, I started destroying personal data, thinking I might donate it, but the big recipients don’t seem interested in a machine over 5 years old. So I will locate a responsible recycling program and have it destroyed in a “green” fashion. The hard drive will suffer a rough end to ensure it can’t be read, because the more data I destroyed, the more I found in “ini” files and registry entries (tax programs and financial programs I’ve used over the years).

Along the way, I found this…

Good ol’ CompuServe. My entry into the world outside my home computer. This was my first account, started in 1983 on a 300bd modem and an Atari 130XE computer.

My first online experience dates back to 1982, when I was 15 years old. I was visiting a pen-pal, Holly, in upstate New York. Her dad took me into the office one day and set me off on CompuServe CB while he worked. “This is other people typing to me? Incredible!!!”

No one seemed interested in speaking to me, though. An old friend-of-the-family had stopped by recently and was telling us about his actual CB radio experiences. I was using his handle, which — though I did not know it then — was rather offensive. I learned that day, though, how offensive it was, as I CB’ed in the presence of Holly’s dad. I sent a formal letter of apology for that, and he replied that he hadn’t noticed. Kind of funny looking back, but terrifying at the time.

Later, on my own account, I made many friends, although I have a hard time remembering who they were. Daddio was from Long Island, my old haunts. I never learned where VirtualVixen originated, but she was on my channel all the time, too (the number of which, btw, I fail to recall — 13 maybe?). Later on, I remember Peaches, who was pregnant and deathly afraid of giving birth. My name was EeeTee (all other variants were taken, and it was my pen-pals in upstate New York who gave me the nick “E.T.” in the first place, so I chose to adapt and spell it the way E.T. said it). In time, a number of these folks migrated to IRC channels dedicated to the old CB channels. Eventually, I lost touch.

As the years went by, my number, “72750, 1412″, proved to be very low. A 5-digit first part meant instant respect (i.e. – you were “mature” and not liable to spend the whole time trying to “hotchat” everyone on the channel). I maintained my low numbered CompuServe account until the advent of CompuServe2000. I had to convert the account to reactivate after a brief stint with AOL, and I ended up with a high 6-digit number — a true sign of being a newbie. But that was alright. The web was alive, and really all CompuServe was for was getting to it. The number no longer mattered.

Looking today, I expected to see CompuServe gone. Last I saw, it was under AOL’s reign. But, it’s still there. Netscape is running it now. I wonder just how many people it hosts, if they still call it CB instead of “chat rooms”, and what Daddio is up to today.