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The Gameline- The Atari 2600 cartridge that led to the popularization of the Internet

shadyspace

Banned
Jan 30, 2011
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(all credit to this Cracked article for leading me down this wiki-hole)

Gameline was a specialized Atari 2600 cartridge put out by the Control Video Corporation that let users download games through a telephone connection. It had no monthly fee; it used a pay-per-game model of about a dollar per game. Games were able to be played 5 to 10 times before a user would be required to re-download and provide further payment. Free games were even provided on a user's birthday.

Now, the most interesting part of the Gameline story (beyond even it being a video game download service that debuted in the early 80s) is actually borne not of it's success, but it's failure. Before it became one of many victims of the 1983 video game crash, plans were in place for additional internet-like features to the Gameline: Stock quotes, headlines, e-mail, even rudimentary message boards. The Gameline was not around long enough for any of these services to be implemented.

Two years later however, the minds behind the Gameline debuted Quantum Link for the Commodore 64 and 128. This service offered everything the Gameline was meant to and more. Along with headlines and email, it added file sharing, online multiplayer games such as chess and poker. It even had instant messaging! It cost $9.95 a month and included an innovative GUI that was ahead of it's competition:



CVC (now named Quantum Computer Services) had licensed the online service PlayNet, of which they built Quantum Link from. In 1989, the people at QCS changed their company's moniker yet again. To America Online. Quantum Link was ported to IBM PCs where it became the first version of AOL. The very service so many of us here today used to connect to the Internet for the first time.

PlayNet code could still be found in AOL software as recently as 2005.

Further reading:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GameLine
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_Link
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayNET
 

POWERSPHERE

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Nov 4, 2006
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That's awesome! I used to look at the GEOS software with my Commodore 64 and it just baffled my young mind as to what it was, how it work and the possibilities.
 

Eteric Rice

Member
Jan 13, 2007
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Wow, I didn't know about this.

Can't even find the cartridge on AtariAge. Was it a prototype or something?
 

shadyspace

Banned
Jan 30, 2011
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Eteric Rice said:
Wow, I didn't know about this.

Can't even find the cartridge on AtariAge. Was it a prototype or something?

Nope. Completely released product (I've yet to find the number of peak users but I'd imagine it was in the mid-thousands).
 

Vic

Please help me with my bad english
Mar 2, 2006
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The fuck. I excepted it to have the size of a normal 2600 cartridge.
 

dock

Member
Oct 14, 2004
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Modems were pretty big back then, and the Megadrive and Snes modems were chunky too. It's really cool that this existed so early, I had no idea there were console modems back then.