Reverse Engineering Prodigy, Part 1

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Prodigy Online Service Logo

[ Please welcome Phillip Heller, VC&G’s newest contributor, who is a member of the Prodigy Preservation Project. Phillip will post more updates on his progress here in the future. –Benj ]

Beginning in the mid 1980s, there were a number of online “walled gardens”. Among them were CompuServe, Genie, Delphi, Quantum Link (later PC-Link, AOL, etc), and Prodigy. The latter two were interesting in that they relied on specific client software to access the service.

Quantum Link was certainly novel for the fact that it furnished a graphical online experience for the Commodore 64, and Prodigy was novel for its use of the NAPLPS graphics standard, client-side P-Code virtual-machine, and hierarchical caching. In the early 2000s, some folks nostalgic for Q-Link set out to reverse engineer it, which was a success with Q-Link Reloaded launching sometime in 2005.

It’d be interesting to do a similar thing with Prodigy: To reverse engineer the client and rebuild a mock server with enough functionality to enable those interested to relive another one of the experiences of the early commercial online world. This is the first in a many part series about doing just that.

[ Continue reading Reverse Engineering Prodigy, Part 1 » ]

[ Retro Scan ] DWANGO Online Service

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

DWANGO Quake Doom Online FPS multiplayer online server Advertisement Scan - 1998Looks real to me

DWANGO, which stood for “Dial-up Wide-Area Network Game Operation,” was an online matchmaking service that specialized in FPS games like Doom and Quake. It has a fascinating history that you can read about more in its Wikipedia article.

I believe I signed up for a free trial of DWANGO circa 1994 so I could play Doom with someone when I was bored, but I don’t remember ever getting it working for some reason. Instead, I often played co-op Doom (and later Quake) modem-to-modem with friends who called my BBS.

[ From GamePro, May 1998, p.67 ]

Discussion Topic: When was the first time you played a FPS multiplayer online? How did you set it up? (i.e. modem-to-modem, TCP/IP, services like Dwango)

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] CompuServe Borg Cube

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

CompuServe Ad - 1988Resistance is futile. (click for full advertisement)

Long-time readers of VC&G may recall me talking about my adventures on CompuServe from time to time. Needless to say, they never looked like this. But I did have a few nightmares featuring enormous floating hive-mind spaceships hooked up to my computer when I was 12.

On second thought, maybe this thing is the machine God uses to create snow — if snow indeed exists.

[ From Compute’s Gazette for Commodore Users, December 1988 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Star Trek or Star Wars? Better yet: Han Solo vs. William T. Riker in a knife fight — who would win?

If you use this image on your site, please support “Retro Scan of the Week” by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] James Bond on CompuServe

Monday, September 15th, 2008

Compuserve T-Shirts - CompuServe Magazine 1995The Man with the Golden Gun

I spent more hours on CompuServe in the early 1990s than I probably should have — considering it cost something like $4.80 (US) an hour. But of all the commercial online services at the time, CompuServe’s combination of history (it had been running since 1969), depth, and variety blew the others out of the water. I scanned this particular ad from CompuServe Magazine, which — believe it or not — was one of my favorite magazines back then. Ah, the good ‘ole days.

I’m guessing that CompuServe actually found a member named “James Bond” and got him to pose for this advertisement. He may look harmless, but that gun is filled with instant death acid; it’s one of Q’s new toys.

[ From CompuServe Magazine, September 1995 ]

Discussion topic of the week: Did you ever use a commercial online service such as CompuServe, Prodigy, AOL, Delphi, or Q-Link? Share your memories and your favorites below.

If you use this image on your site, please support “Retro Scan of the Week” by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.