Compuserve and the Internet

Early in January, I ordered interface software from Compuserve, America Online and Prodigy. During my subsequent attempt to install each of the GUI software packages, all informed me that they would not work on a circa. 1990 Macintosh SE.

Luckily, it is possible to telnet to Compuserve at speeds up to 14,440 bps. Since my modem is only 2400 bps, I choose to compare a full Internet connection and a Compuserve text-only telnet connection, each operating from an on-campus computer.

My 1 year plus infatuation with the Internet has been fed by the sheer power of the tools available on the Internet. Long before I was able to use the World Wide Web with Mosaic (not to mention Netscape), I was drawn to the 'Net by the ability to message friends across the world, download graphics and essays from Norway and receive translations of foreign language radio reports of terrorist attacks minutes after they were broadcast across the world in another language, all at near instantaneous speeds and for no direct cost. Each time my interest in one facet of the Internet has waned, another facet has been born to replace my curiosity

In comparison to the Internet's dynamic and visually fascinating environment, Compuserve's text-only format offers very little excitement. The text-only scrolling-screen interface seems not to have changed significantly since the first time I saw the network years ago.

The information resources available on Compuserve are not very useful to a University of Michigan student. Newswire access on Compuserve generally falls into the "that's extra" cost structure, while access to news wires is free using the Clari news service. (Granted, the Clari service is passed back to me indirectly through tuition.) Compuserve also offers access to reference resources. However, the sheer mass of information resources available in the University of Michigan Library System dwarf those which are available through Compuserve. (Not to mention the additional free access to resources provided by the Interlibrary Loan System.) The services only available to me through Compuserve which I might find interesting, such as the SABRE airplane reservation system and the extensive of product support forums, are not included in the basic service package.

In the past, I have avoided conversation forums on the Internet. There have only been one or two topics which I care passionately enough about to weather the amount of incoming mail they generate. (USENET has never been worth my time). I did not find any forums on Compuserve which interested me enough to want to actively participate. This should not come as a major surprise since my passionate interests are usually relatively obscure, and therefore not viable enough to merit a Compuserve forum.

All this said, the resources I can access (and understand how to access) at the University of Michigan for absolutely no cost, are virtually unparalleled in the country. Compuserve could easily be a valuable tool for a person with no Internet access, or with far less bandwidth than what is available UM computing centers. (The graphics available on Compuserve at 14,440 bps. are functional, as opposed to what is available over the Web at the same speed.) In addition, even if someone does have access to a library of modest proportions, it is not always open the evening hours available at a University. Finally, for those who need support for a specific piece of software or hardware, the Compuserve forums may be the best and most convenient resource.

If this assignment did one thing, it made me grateful for the resources UM puts at my disposal. Knowing what is available on the Internet, it quickly became painful to spend time on Compuserve's text-only service.