[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Grolier’s Encyclopedia on CompuServe

August 23rd, 2010 by Benj Edwards

Gorbachev CompuServe - 1993“Press <CR> for more”

For my sixth grade social studies class, I wrote a report on Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union. And he really was “former” then — the USSR had fallen apart just two years prior to my report in 1991. For that report — which I ran across recently — I used every resource available to me, including a novel one at the time: Grolier’s Encyclopedia on CompuServe Information Service. My family subscribed to CompuServe — that massive, pre-ubiquitous-Internet dial-up service that cost amazingly large fees an hour — and I loved it.

What you see above is part of the Gorbachev encyclopedia entry in the form of a dot-matrix printout from the DOS version of CompuServe Information Manager (a front-end client for CompuServe) that I printed myself. Various lines are crossed out and underlined, noting areas of interest that I was to paraphrase for the report. This wasn’t plagiarism — I even cited the online encyclopedia in my report’s bibliography. That fact is actually kinda impressive to me in retrospect.

CompuServe’s online encyclopedia was amazing at the time (1992-1993 era). It was so easy to just search for a term, look it up, and print it out. It sure beat our family’s musty 1968 World Book Encyclopedia set that I used for every report prior to this one (yes, the information in my reports was often woefully out of date). For Christmas 1993, my dad bought us Microsoft Encarta on CD-ROM, and that served as the meat of my school reports for the next few years after that. But that’s another story entirely.

[ From Grolier’s Academic American Encyclopedia (CompuServe printout), 1993 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you first use an electronic encyclopedia — CD-ROM or otherwise? What did you use it for?

11 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Grolier’s Encyclopedia on CompuServe”

  1. tcv Says:

    This just makes me miss the collection of computer print outs I used to have. Where the heck did that thing go! It was all from the middle 80s, too. 🙁

  2. SirPaul Says:

    The first electronic encyclopedia I used was the CD-ROM version of Groiler’s Encyclopedia, shipped with every Packard-Bell PC in the early-mid 90s. In fact, one humorous moment was when I did a report on Beethoven in Junior High, and I accidentally printed out and turned in a VERY early version of the report (which was pretty much just a copy-paste from the encyclopedia article), and apparently the teacher didn’t have that program, as I still aced the report…

  3. Cozfer Says:

    I also used the CompuServe online encyclopedia. When I got my pcJr when I was 13, I think the modem came with a free 30 or 60 minute trial version of CompuServe. I don’t think we bought any more minutes since it was so expensive. It’s funny that I also printed out a bunch of entries with the ol’ dot-matrix (in NLQ mode) and saved them off for many years, probably through high school.

  4. BDD Says:

    In high school, we had access to a limited encyclopedia through the MECC server via a coupler modem and a teletype machine. Not too bad for its time (early 80s), but quite limited if I recall correctly. Since the teletype was in the library, anything we couldn’t find online had to be researched the old fashioned way- actual encyclopedias…

  5. idisjunction Says:

    The earliest electronic encyclopedia I can recall using is Microsoft Bookshelf 98, when I was 10 and in fifth grade, doing a report on Ghana (WTF?) though I have vague memories of using an early web portal to look up information on the internet in first or second grade (possibly EBSCOhost?), and I’d played with (though not really used or fully understood) Software Toolworks US Atlas and World Atlas way back in 1993, when I was 5 or 6. I might even still have the CD it came on…

  6. PS3D Says:

    I think that we first had the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia in the mid-1990s. I distinctly remember the article on apples, and IIRC, it just didn’t stack up to the World Book. Less articles, and the “multimedia” consisted of grainy pictures and postage stamp sized video.

  7. PS3D Says:

    Also note that the World Book was also just a few years younger than the Multimedia Encyclopedia, lessening the Encyclopedia’s impact.

  8. orsty Says:


    I still have it. It came with out 486DX Packard Bell.

  9. Ant Says:

    Heh. I remember the one from 1993. I forgot its name. It had a video of NASA’s space shuttle liftoff. Woo. 🙂

  10. anachostic Says:

    Compuserve’s “CB” service cost my parents over $1000 because the only Compuserve dial up number for me was long distance. And also because I was addicted to chat, but probably more the long-distance.

  11. Cody Says:

    Encarta, I almost forgot about that, one of the first actual uses of the CD-ROM I ever saw (the next big one was Windows 95). Of course, back then I never owned a CD-ROM, I was too poor… but I got to oggle those owned by others and in the stores.

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