[ Retro Scan of the Week ] NandO.net - My First ISP

January 18th, 2016 by Benj Edwards

Raleigh News and Observer Nando Nando.net Newspaper Advertisement ISP Internet - 1994The only time I have ever read the term "MUSH" in print.

You are looking at a scan of the actual newspaper ad that got me on the Internet with a commercial ISP for the first time. (Prior to that, I got online through a free dial-up university dataswitch.) It's an ad for NandO.net, a 1990s-era Raleigh, NC-based ISP originally owned and operated by our flagship newspaper, The News and Observer.

As you can see by the handwritten notes on the ad, my dad used this actual piece of paper to sign us up for an account on the service (I modified the credit card number digitally, in case anyone is wondering). I found this rare artifact in my old computer papers recently while researching my early web history for a FastCompany piece I wrote last year. In that article, I explored what it was like to build a website in 1995. Here's what I wrote about NandO:

As the Internet became more than just a way to access MUDs or look up the occasional novelty on text-based Gophers or web browsers, both of us sought a more robust way of accessing it. One of the first ISPs in our city was called NandO.net. Our local newspaper, the News and Observer, ran it as an extension of its efforts to pioneer online newsmaking processes.

On some day in late 1994, my father signed my family up for NandO.net. What we got in exchange for about $20 a month was an account on an Internet-enabled BBS, which had its own local message board and games, but would allow us to use text-only Internet email, web browsing, FTP, and Gopher. My dad paid extra for a "shell account" so I could log in and get a Unix command prompt. From there I could upload and download files from a terminal program, telnet to other servers, and push stuff from my shell account to remote machines via FTP.

What heady days those were. Incredible to think that I was just dipping my toes into what would eventually become a life-changing deluge — not just for me, but for all of humanity itself.

[ From The News and Observer, December 13, 1994, p.9A ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What was the name of your first ISP? What year did you first use it?

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[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The New Prodigy

July 14th, 2014 by Benj Edwards

The New Prodigy Provocative Lady Advertisement - 1996You can't see her other hand, but it's holding a gun!

It's a Prodigy-y week around here thanks to my recent article on The Atlantic. So I poked around my scans directory for something Prodigy related, and ka-pow!

I have yet to see an ad for the pre-ISP Prodigy in any of the magazines in my sizable archive (but then again, most of my computer magazines date from before and after Prodigy's heyday, with a gap in the middle), but I did find this "New Prodigy" ad from an old issue of Internet World, which I proudly subscribed to for a few years in the mid-1990s.

Ads like this one represented a new marketing push at time when the company sought to find a new corporate parent and shifted its focus to being an ISP (its legacy NAPLPS-flavored content was soon re-branded "Prodigy Classic").

By the way, the "original" Prodigy had a wholesome, family-safe, squeaky clean image, with an army of moderators eager to censor any bulletin board postings or even emails (yes, they read, or at least filtered, everyone's emails) that contained a hint of sexuality, so I find it humorously ironic that the company ultimately resorted to a sexually-charged ad like this one.

[ From Internet World - February 1996, insert between p.32-33]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you meet a romantic partner online prior to the year 2000? (Including those that didn't involve physical relationships.) Tell us about it.

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Experimental Music Site Request-A-Song.com Turns 10

October 1st, 2012 by Benj Edwards

Request-A-Song.com Clef Attack Picture

Ten years ago today, I opened an experimental music website called Request-A-Song.com. On the site, my brother Jeremy and I solicited song titles (just titles, not lyrics), which site visitors would submit via a web form. We'd pick the ones we found most inspiring and write songs based on them, then publish them on the site in MP3 format. The project lasted until December 2005.

As you might expect, a lot of very interesting and unusual songs came out of the process. You can tell just by reading the titles of our most popular songs — names like "Butter Ghost," "Violent House Panda," "Poke 'Em In The Neck," and "I Flipped My Biscuit" — that we preferred ideas on the bizarre end of the spectrum.

Jeremy and Benj Edwards Request-A-Song.com Publicity Shot from 2004In honor of our 10th anniversary, I've uploaded all 134 of our songs to The Internet Archive with the hope that it will preserve our effort for posterity.

You can still download those songs from the original Request-A-Song.com website (which also provides information on who requested what and when, lyrics, and dates of release), but it's actually easier to explore our catalog with the IA's handy online streaming MP3 app.

(If you want to know which songs to listen to first, here is a list of our 25 most popular songs.)

Over the next month, I plan on uploading more RAS information to the Internet Archive, including news archives, press clippings, song metadata, images, and more.

[ Continue reading Experimental Music Site Request-A-Song.com Turns 10 » ]

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Ellen Feiss Music Video - An Ode to the Mac Switcher

May 31st, 2008 by Benj Edwards

Ellen Feiss - Mac Switcher

I don't know if anybody out there knows this, but some years ago, I created a music site called Request-A-Song.com (RAS). My brother Jeremy and I wrote original songs based on visitor suggestions, recorded them, and put them up on the site in MP3 format. We usually treated serious requests humorously, and humorous requests seriously, which thoroughly confused everybody (Hence RAS's amazing success, and why you've no doubt heard of it many times). Sadly, our heyday was before the Digg, YouTube, MySpace, and ubiquitous blog explosion, which would have undoubtedly helped us promote our music and unique concept.

I'm only mentioning this now because it deals with something at least slightly on-topic for VC&G — computer history. Mike (aka Dr. Macenstein), over at the Macenstein blog, recently put together a video for my tongue-in-cheek song, "Ellen Feiss Makes Me Hot," which I released back in 2003 (yes, almost five years ago). It's about the famous Mac switcher who appeared in an Apple advertisement around the time. Essentially, people thought the commercial was funny because Ms. Feiss looked like she was stoned while filming.

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