Talking to Steve Case

I had the chance to interview Steve Case for Social Media Week the other day, and though it was a brief conversation, I was really pleased with how it went. Steve’s earliest work on Quantum Link, a predecessor to what would someday become AOL, was formative in my understanding of what computers could be used for, and it was great to get to talk to him in some depth about that.

At the other end of the spectrum, it was also truly refreshing to talk to a tech billionaire who recognizes the social obligations that the tech industry and its leaders have to their communities. Whether it was talking about how to truly address the high unemployment rate for which the tech industry bears some responsibility, or discussing immigration in a broader context than simply importing more programmers, or more fundamental issues of inclusion and opportunity, Steve didn’t shy away from any of it, and I think it makes the conversation well worth watching.

There’s a peculiar and unsettling feeling that arises when looking up background information for a piece and finding a blog post I wrote more than fourteen years ago as one of the top results.

One of the dead links from that post led to the text of the message Steve sent to Quantum Link subscribers just before the service shut down in November 1994:

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 The Commodore computer, once a leader in the industry, has been replaced by faster, more powerful systems.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.


Steve Case

People Connection

Also courtesy of the Web Archive is this old page that captured many details of the Quantum Link experience.

Quantum Link Music

Astoundingly, the full-screen loading images that we watched while waiting for Quantum Link content to download at 300 baud were only 368×240 in resolution. A few highlights of images that I remember especially well include the People Connection (chat) and Music screens.

And of course, the one image I saw most often was the main menu, which is both completely analogous to, and completely different from, the home screen on my phone that I use every day.

Quantum Link Menu