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“Auditorium” chatrooms could hold hundreds or thousands of users and had a moderator.
Users could also create private and public chatrooms and host scheduled events.
Her favorite room is “Garden Chat,” where she trades tips on how to grow vegetables and flowers.
To this day, Garden Chat appears to be one of the most active chatrooms on AOL.
It’s incredibly difficult to even use the chatrooms, because you need AOL Desktop, a free program that when downloaded, feels like a glimpse back into the days of dial-up. And, just like in the 1990s, people looking for sex. She’s 72, and in her free time, she likes making miniature scenes and working in her garden.
Now primarily a digital media company, AOL — it owns about them: the company refused to make anyone available for this story. But when she has about an hour, she’ll log on to chat.
She calls them “disruptors.” When I ask her what the disruptors do, she says, “If you were reading Garden Chat right now, you would see. That’s not fun.”Bird misses the days when people would talk about growing annuals and perennials.
At the pinnacle of AOL, the company had 35 million paying subscribers. When it was still called Quantum Computer Services, the company debuted chatrooms.“That was a huge focus of the service,” Joe Schober, who was a beta tester at Quantum Computing Services in the late 1980s and officially worked for AOL from 1992 to 2014, tells Regular chat rooms could hold up to 23 people.
“It was really cool, because even if your parents were in the next room, they couldn’t hear what you were talking about because you’re typing on your keyboard.”At AOL’s peak, more than 100 million AOL screen names existed, and users spent over a million hours chatting a year.
On Garden Chat, sometimes people still trade tips for gardening and cooking, messaging back and forth in different fonts, font weights, and colors.
But much of the time, the conversations are much more colorful — in that they’re splashed with expletives.“Lately my favorite room has gotten a bunch of pervert-nasty people,” Bird says.
She’s used chatrooms for the past 16 years, ever since her kids introduced her to AOL.
While her children don’t use AOL anymore, she’s kept it up.
When he heard the sound of a door creeping open ring from the speakers of his desktop computer, he’d perk up because the sound meant a friend was online, and they were free to chat.