Everyone knows AOL. If you aren't a member, then you know someone
who is. In today's society, if you sign on and happen to find
someone online from your neighborhood, it's no big deal. With over
35 million members, the probability of it happening is as good (if
not better) then a bug flying into your windshield on your next trip out
to the grocery store.
Before AOL grew to be the giant it is today, it started out as a small company known as Quantum Computer Services, the name of their service was QuantumLink, or Q-Link for short. Finding a neighbor on Q-Link was far less common. With only around 55,000 members, you had a better chance of finding a 4-leaf clover on your front lawn. Maybe that's what made Q-Link what it was.
So how did it all start? Commodore International, the company which produced the Commodore 64, was looking to create an online service branded for its personal computers. The company had laid eyes on an existing online service called PlayNet, but had reservations about their ability to pull such a large scale project off. Three men who worked together at another company called Control Video Corporation (CVC) heard about the project, and met with Commodore. They convinced Commodore to give them the project. They three men licensed the software that PlayNet used for their service, and went to work. Who were the three men? Jim Kimsey who was responsible for obtaining the capitol investments, Marc Seriff who developed the Q-Link code based on the original PlayNet software, and Steve Case, the marketing expert. On November 1st, 1985, Q-Link was born. (Steve later was promoted to executive vice president)
Q-Link offered many services which are still available till this day through AOL. The most known of which is People Connection, the interactive chat rooms. Just like on AOL, when you first entered People Connection, you would wind up in the first Lobby which had a slot available. Until recently, AOL still had the same 23 users per room limit that Q-Link had, but now supports 36 users per room. One noticeable difference is that on AOL, Lobbies are numbered. You could wind up in Lobby 183 easily. On Q-Link however, the subscriber base was MUCH smaller. On that service, the Lobbies were lettered. There was Lobby, Lobby A, Lobby B, and so on. The deepest I ever saw the lobbies grow was Lobby F. I always wondered what would happen if they reached maximum capacity at Lobby Z, but that never happened. At least, not while I was a member.
A few years after Q-Link opened, Quantum Computer Services found themselves strapped for cash, which affected the company greatly (see the stories section about Habitat and Club Caribe). The Commodore 64 was loosing popularity Apple and IBM Compatibles were gaining market share. In order to grow the customer base, Quantum developed two new services: AppleLink and PC-Link. Both ran off of the same servers, the "Stratus" or IBM System 88.
PC-Link was a partnership between Tandy and Quantum Computer Services for IBM Compatibles, which was written using Tandy's DeskMate interface. Deskmate was a GUI (graphical user interface) which was a competitor to Microsoft's Windows 3.0. AppleLink was a partnership between Apple Computer and Quantum Computer Services for the Apple II.
Another service called Promenade was developed strictly for the IBM PS/1 computer. It was a miniature version of PC-Link, soley for owners of the IBM PS/1.
For various business reasons including lack of growth, lack of creative freedom, and sour business partnerships, Quantum Computer Services decided to merge the PC-Link and AppleLink services together and rename it America Online; AOL. For a while the three services were run separately, but you were able to send email from one service to the other, with the exception of Q-Link. When reading your email, it would identify which service the user was sending the email from: Apple-Link, PC-Link, or AOL. Viewing a user's profile would also reveal this information.
In 1991, Quantum Computer Services changed their company name to America Online, Inc. For the next few years, AOL focused on building their new services and less on maintaining Q-Link. Members of Q-Link were beginning to feel neglected as the online content began to grow old and stagnant. The service was beginning to die a slow death. Then the news delivered from Steve Case:
Dear Members, As you know, QLink was originally launched in November, 1985. In the years that followed you, as our loyal members, have helped us build a unique online community for Commodore computer users. I want to thank each of you for your contribution, your support and your feedback over the years. The computing industry has changed dramatically since those first days of online communications. Commodore ceased to produce Commodore brand computers in 1993. Sadly, the company has recently closed its doors entirely. The Commodore computer, once a leader in the industry, has been replaced by faster, more powerful systems. Many software vendors no longer support the Commodore operating system. Now we find, with great regret, that we simply can no longer support the QLink service. It has become impossible for us to maintain the product up to a standard of quality that we can be proud of. Many of you I'm sure have noticed a diminished level of product quality in the last few months due to these technical limitations. Without technical support from the industry, we are not able to add new services, fix existing problems, or prevent new ones. Therefore we have made the sad decision to discontinue QLink as of November 1, 1994. We would like to thank each of you for your long and continued support and, if at all possible, keep you as part of our online community. If you now have the ability to use America Online (PC-DOS, Windows or Macintosh), we invite you to convert your membership to one of these other systems. For details on what these versions have to offer and the system requirements needed to run them, see the document in this area entitled "Converting to America Online." For details on the last month of service for QLink, important dates and billing information, see the document in this area entitled "Your Final Bill." We have enjoyed serving you. Thanks again. Sincerely, Steve Case
Q-Link was closing its doors for good. The service was ahead of its time, but technology caught up and AOL could no longer afford to run the unprofitable service. It's interesting to note that all of the services were run on the same servers and were capable of accessing each other's content. PC-Link and AOL are based off the same code that Q-Link operated on, and even had the same vulnerabilities (See the Stories section for more on that).
For those who are familiar with AOL, it's interesting to look back at Q-Link. You'll notice many similarities between the former online service, and the service you know today. People Connection's chat functions identically as it did on Q-Link, just with a major improved interface. There's one service of Q-Link which was truly innovative, but never survived the transition to AOL. In fact, it has changed hands many times before it found its current resting place. It was the first graphical virtual world, its name was Habitat.
Click on the stories link above for more information about Habitat, and the other services which are now AOL, and were once Q-Link.
Except where indicated, all contents included on this site is copyrighted (C) 2003 by Keith Elkin.com and may not be reproduced in part or in whole without permission. Q-Link, PC-Link, AOL, Habitat, and Club Caribe are registered service marks of America Online, Inc. We are in no way affiliated with America Online, Inc. Comments, questions, suggestions? Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.