Brian J. Joins the Navy

Scientists Explore Underwater Quantum Links for Submarines.

As you might recall, gentle reader, I have lots of experience with Quantum Link.

As some of you older folks might know, Quantum Link was an online service for Commodore 64s which later became a little thing called America Online.

But I was on it in the old days, before it was cool. I’m a Q-Link hipster.

Well, all right, not a lot of experience. Let me explain.

When we lived in the trailer, we got our first computer, a Commodore 128, with my mother’s inheritance from her aunt. We also got a modem with it (not one you plug your handset into a la Wargames, but a flaky Volks 6480 1200 baud modem into which you plugged your telephone line directly. We got wind of or, quite likely, a free installation disk somewhere, perhaps with a magazine or sent via a magazine’s mailing list.

So we installed it.

To get into Q-Link, you had to dial up to one of the big data centers that leased their lines to businesses during the day, but were available for consumer traffic at night. The client software ran and communicated with the company servers back east, and you could get into chat rooms both public and private (yeah, Baby Boomers invented online sex, too, you damn kids). The news groups and forums were free, but chatting and playing games was not; you had to pay an extra six cents a minute to do so, six cents a minute that was added to your phone bill (come on, not everyone had credit cards in 1987).

You would think the limits to off-business hours would have minimize the damage a couple bored teens could do, but you’d be wrong.

My mother worked first shift in those days, so she’d leave the trailer a little before seven in the morning, and we’d roll out of bed and hop online for a couple of hours of Plus time before the data center would cut over to businesses. And nights, we’d weedle my mother until she relented to let us have an hour of Plus time, maybe even each.

I imagine they had an account page somewhere that could show you how much Plus time you used; I’m also sure that if I saw it, I would have dismissed it with “What does another $3.60 matter?” (call it Dollars-a-Day Bad Habits: The Early Years).

When the phone bill came, somehow we’d racked up over $300 in charges. Which took diligence, gentle reader, and probably sneaking onto the service at night as well.

You know, $300 doesn’t sound too horrible now, but my sainted mother was a clerk-typist spending her take home pay paying for the oldest, worstest trailer in the park and cheap ground beef and off-brand Hamburger Helper, so this was a significant amount for us at the time. Maybe an extra paycheck, or thereabouts. She just admonished us in the adult fashion–you know when you do something so bad that you don’t get yelled at, you get admonished, which is worse. And she paid it without docking our allowance–which was, what, maybe a buck a week at that time? I would probably still be paying that off if she hadn’t been so gracious and forgiving.

But that was the end of Q-Link for us, and we were relegated to BBSes when our Volksmodem wasn’t flaking out on us.

So maybe I don’t have as much actual experience with Quantum Links as I put on my resume.

Years later, as I mentioned, it became America Online, and I signed up on my mother’s old 486 (ask yer grandpa). And I posted on a newsgroup through it. And the rest is wonderful history. So not only did I get a beautiful wife on the Internet before it was cool–I got her on QuantumLink.

(Link about the submarines via Instapundit.)

Buy My Books!
Buy John Donnelly's Gold Buy The Courtship of Barbara Holt Buy Coffee House Memories