Entry 452: Dear Fellow AOL User…

Have you heard the news?

Verizon is buying AOL for 4.4 billion dollars, and I think I speak on behalf of all AOLers aol4[1]when I say that we are appalled!

After all, AOL users have an almost pathological resistance to change of any kind, or we wouldn’t still be AOL users in the first place.

I, myself, have been on AOL since the early days, way back in the last century, when going online sounded like you were cranking up a Model T Ford. Actually, I have no idea what cranking up a Model T sounded like, or if it even made a sound. But I’ll tell you one thing about those dial-up modems we used to have: something sure was cranking! Either that, or there was a small animal inside my computer that got tortured every time I checked my email. Click here if you want to hear the aural agony that we endured.

Back then, you paid by the hour, or you had a plan with a certain number of hours a month. You can still see a vestige of those days when you sign off AOL today. The screen says, “You’ve been online for x minutes. Your pricing plan this billing cycle is for unlimited use.” AOL has been free and unlimited for well over a decade, so you can see how they are aware of their customers’ adverse reaction to change.

And, by the way, those old minutes-per-month plans were a problem when it took aboutaol_cds1[1] an hour and a half to load a single web page over a 1200-baud dial-up modem. It took patience and fortitude to be online back then. Now, Amazon can deliver something in the time it took you to buy a DVD online in the old days.  And you certainly couldn’t download a movie; you’d have lived through Arnold Schwarzenegger’s entire term as Governor of California and still be waiting for Terminator 2: Judgment Day to show up on your PC.

Back in the beginning, everyone used AOL (it was America Online then) unless they were computer scientists (who used CompuServe). Of course, there were probably fewer people in the world online then than visit your typical angry cat website in a single day now. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity, though; an AOL disk would arrive in the mail once a week, but no one knew what to do with them.  And they’d give you 700 FREE hours your first month, which meant you could stay online more than 23 hours a day–more than enough time to read a Time magazine article!

But those of us who did…we were state-of-the-art people! We had mail, for crying out loud! And, sure, better and faster things came along, and, yes, at some point there was nobody under 50 using AOL, and, of course, after awhile, people would LOL when you said AOL.

edwardsBut we stayed with it, you and I. We were loyal, damn it. We could not live our lives without hearing Elwood Edwards’ inviting voice every day, greeting us when we came online, bidding us farewell when we signed off, informing us when our uploads and downloads were done, letting us know when we had been contacted by the outside world. “You’ve got mail!” Elwood would declare, in a tone that implied limitless possibilities. Why, it could be anything, he was telling us. Hurry up and open it!

Elwood still sounds the same as he always did, although he never has anything new to say. He’s like us, resistant to change.

And here we are, a quarter century later, and AOL is still hanging around, as are we. Not only that, but it is evidently worth $4.4 billion, as we are not. The CEO of Verizon, in explaining his latest impulse purchase, said the following:

AOL has once again become a digital trailblazer, and we are excited at the prospect of charting a new course together in the digitally connected world. At Verizon, we’ve been strategically investing in emerging technology…that taps into the market shift to digital content and advertising. AOL’s advertising model aligns with this approach, and the advertising platform provides a key tool for us to develop future revenue streams.

Well, what do you know! We’re trailblazers again! Yes, you and I and AOL are charting a new course together! We are at the forefront of new ways to annoy people with advertising! Hooray for us!

And I leave you now with the immortal word of Elwood Edwards:

GOODBYE!

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