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Gnome's Computers

Back in the 1980s there was an online service called Compunet. It was initially Commodore-only as the modem (a V23 type which meant it worked 1200 baud download and 75 baud upload) fitted straight into the Commodore 64's cartridge port (I seem to remember that early ones wouldn't fit properly into the C128's electrically identical port as they fouled something else on the back of the C128). Later it became possible to use Compunet from an Amiga using a standard modem and possibly, if memory serves, even an Atari ST.

The low upload rate (75 baud was approximately 7.5 characters a second - broadband, it definitely wasn't) meant that uploading a single, simple page took quite a while and a single page could only hold the same as one C64 screenful, which was 40 characters by 25 lines. Not that all 25 lines were available as each Compunet screen had to include a menu along the bottom line. This was, of course, before the days of unmetered telephone calls so it was all costing money by the second. However, many people did upload scores of pages and the system grew steadily until, like Commodore itself, the plug was pulled in the early nineties.

One user, John Marchant (who went under the name of Gnome), uploaded an account of his experiences, which started with early computers manufactured well before Commodore had even thought to create their first offerings, the KIM and the PET, up through the early 1980s when he was involved with Commodore 8-bit machines. I not only read but downloaded the whole set of pages that he had uploaded and have re-read them every couple of years or so as I found his tales of the early eras of computing quite fascinating as they differ greatly from what we know today.

In 2004 I managed to track John down and he kindly gave his permission for me to re-publish his accounts. They do make fascinating reading so - over the next few pages - here they are again for a whole new set of readers to discover!


(And, John, if you're reading this then please contact me again as the last email address you gave me is no longer responding!)