[ 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?

18 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] NandO.net – My First ISP”

  1. Moondog Says:

    My first was a company called Quantum Connections in 1997. They and a couple of other small ISP’s were absorbed by a larger ISP a few years later.

  2. Rowan Lipkovits Says:

    I like the “information superhighway” metaphor demonstrated in the illustration.

    Area code 604’s brief history of internet access looked like: initially, available only to the physicists at TRIUMF, then to students at UBC. I believe Wimsy was the first commercial home offering, then it began being offered through large multi-node BBSes with other action on the side (like Dreamscape, a chatboard, or Ice Online / The Majic Realm, a MUD). Other large local ISPs of the mid-’90s included MIND LINK! initially, Uniserve, Infomatch and later Mortimer down the line. My first experiences were as a free user on Blaze in late ’94 / early ’95, which would boot you off in the event that a paying user showed up to lay legitimate claim to the phone line.

    Good and affordable ISPs in our area code were late in arriving, which was one big factor in our extraordinarily lively and long-lived (most active until the latest time, as judged by the PD BBS listings at textfiles.com) BBS scene.

  3. jistuce Says:

    In the year 1999, I got a NetZero CD at the fair. And THAT was my first ISP.

  4. Erik Says:

    Sadly, I believe AOL was my first “true” WWW experience. I had used the internet pass thru on various BBS’s here and there to send or receive a file or E-mail, but stuck fast to the regular BBS world until late 1997 when AOL and web based internet had become much more common. After a month or two on AOL, I was hooked on the concept and dumped them in favor of Intrex (another Raleigh,NC local provider), And the rest is history.

  5. SirFatty Says:

    MegsINet in Chicago, late 1994 or early 1995. Registered my first domain in 1997…

  6. Jay Says:

    Erols, formerly a local video-rental chain turned small ISP, probably 1996. Their buggy dialup software only worked in Win 3.1, they were prone to twenty-minute outages late at night (probably unannounced regular maintenance given that it was after midnight), but it was the internet. And even then, it was awesome.

  7. Jim Says:

    I believe mine was called concentric.net. I think I paid $20/month for dial-up which was pretty standard at the time. I believe that they got bought out by XO 15 or so years ago.

  8. John Says:

    My first ISP was MCI, provided through work, in 1996. The first one I bought myself was IBM’s – I loved having an email address @ibm.net. They were eventually bought by AT&T, though.

  9. V Says:

    My first, first ISP was a local, free town ISP in Sharon, MA simply called Sharon community internet. This was around 1996. You couldn’t actually use your own installed software like email clients or web browsers, you could only connect to a *NIX server via a terminal session and use text-based programs such as Lynx and Pine. You were only allowed one hour per day during peak times, and an additional 3 hours if you were willing to use it at night. Also, I was connecting with a 1.2 (and later 2.4) bps modem connected to a 386DX40 PC with 2MB of RAM. But it sure beat the BBS’s I was mostly using at the time, and it was free, which for a poor, nerdy teenager, was pretty awesome.

    My first “real” ISP was Earthlink in 1998.

  10. XCALIBR8 Says:

    My family being Microsoft fans inthe 90’s, MSN right from the get go our first, and best ISP. That is what we used consistently from 96-01. Solid service, we eventually tried one of the cheaper crazes at the time; Netzero’s low monthly payment for full internet service.

  11. Multimedia Mike Says:

    My first was called pcisys.net. I see that they are still around but as pcibroadband.net. I signed up in early 1998, right after I graduated university and couldn’t count on school dialup options anymore.

    Their ‘about’ page says they have been around since 1996 and are the oldest ISP in Colorado at this point. Congrats to them for making it this far– 20 whole years!

  12. Alexander Says:

    I know my house first had AOL, but I wasn’t really allowed access to it yet. Eventually, we switched to another provider in 1996 or 1997. Whatever it was, I was allowed to use my dad’s computer to access my first email account, and visit places like LEGO’s Mindstorms website with help. We tried a handful in the mid-late 90s.

    In 1999, with yet another provider called BlueLight, I was allowed to access the internet from my own computer. Those were good days…

  13. Jordan Says:

    So cool to see vintage ads like these. I remember when the internet really started up like this. AOL was our first though.

  14. K4DSP Says:

    I, too, have fond memories of nando.net, and enjoyed the freewheeling spirit that pervaded that place. That was my first experience with Trumpet Winsock and PPP connections and the Mosaic web browser. The shell account was icing on the cake. I had a second phone line installed just for Nando.

    Nando was bought by Mindspring (later Earthlink) sometime in the mid-late 90s, and the rumor was that the main reason Mindspring was interested is that Nando had a class B subnet, ie. 65,536 public IP addresses. Apparently that was a valuable commodity back then, since a lot of mom and pop ISPs were running with a single (or a few) class C subnets.

    Good memories.

  15. Ant Says:

    Universities’ shell accounts including TIA and SLiRP, Netcom, and then EarthLink. 😉

  16. Keith Weston Says:

    For a while I was on GEnie then CompuServ followed by first real ISP experience – and that was (wait for it) NandO net. (I also used and perhaps overused some bridges provided by local universities cirac 1994/5.) I was also a telnet-only customer for io.com from mid 1995-2001 or so.

  17. Dave Says:

    My first ISP was Flashnet in Albuquerque, NM. This was in 1996, also the year I bought my first PC, although I had been using Win 3.x machines at work, WIN95 debuted about the same time. Wasn’t long before I was upgrading and building from scratch. I got into retro-computing just a few years later, before it became popular. I had a good hunch that it would become a main stream hobby back then. Great website…first time visitor!

  18. Jim Says:

    Westmoreland Online, southwestern Pennsylvania, 1995/6. I think I may still have the setup diskette. They insisted that the service would only work with Windows, but I eventually got my Linux system connected. Their system would become too bogged down to be usable around 3:00 P.M. Like any good ISP, they claimed that the problem wasn’t their fault but a bottleneck in Pittsburgh. Switching to another (Pittsburgh area) ISP solved the problem.

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