The Sam Report: Genie Farewell

The decline of one of the biggest online services

By Sam Ormes, Senior Editor, See staff list for e-mail address

This magazine was born in a magical cyber-hometown called GEnie. Most of us recently left home. Felt good.....but was painful. I might feel better if I tell the rest of the story.

Back in ancient times, 1985 to be exact, an online service named GEnie was created. The capitalized "GE" stood for General Electric, its owner. In the days before the Internet with its flashy graphics and easy navigation became popular, a text-only service seemed quite adequate. The subscriber base of GEnie rose to almost 400,000 worldwide and that was phenomenal in the days of 300-2400-baud modems and limited public awareness of such things.

Amigans flocked to GEnie when, also in 1985, Deb Christensen launched the *StarShip* Amiga section of the service. Affectionately known as the "SysMom," Deb provided subscribers with a wide variety of Amiga treats. The free software libraries were vast, with hundreds of new postings daily at their peak. The Amiga bulletin board offered every conceivable category in which to post technical advice, tips, troubleshooting, opinions on new products and software, and offline socialization. An online magazine was published and there was even an art gallery as a showplace for Amiga graphics.

For me the best part of GEnie was the Starship RTC or chatroom. It ran in two shifts, East Coast and West Coast, and each lasted about 1-2 hours every night! In the RTC you could actually "talk" to fellow Amigans live, realtime. There was a different SysOp on the HelpDesk seven nights a week, two shifts. Legendary figures would drop in sometimes and when there was a special guest announced in advance, attendance would swell into the hundreds. It was a fine place.

Unfortunately, by 1995 two events would occur that changed that rosy picture forever: the demise of Commodore and the ghastly process that followed, and the growing popularity of the World Wide Web. By early 1996 General Electric wearied of the drastic decline in Genie subscribers and sold the whole service to some mysterious folks we had never heard of... Yovelle Renaissance, who in turn merged with IDT, an East Coast Internet Service Provider. Two years ago IDT promised it would take Genie to the Web and many of us hung on waiting for that to happen. It hasn't. The monthly rates for Genie were raised, although there were few improvements to justify it, and the subscriber base fell to an estimated 40,000. In early 1998 there may be only 5-10,000 left!

I was in the StarShip chatroom almost every night for the past four years and since March 1996 had been its Supervisor. Loyal staffers manned the HelpDesk 7 nights a week in a single shift until it became increasingly obvious that there was nobody to help anymore. The StarShip had become a meeting place for the few remaining staffers, and more often a solitary HelpDesker in an empty room. Many of us found it much more exciting to chat with other Amigans via AOL, ICQ, IRC, etc.

On the night of April 7, 1998 we held a farewell party in the chatroom. About six loyal folks showed up and we got a number of e-mails from Amigans expressing their regrets. I cancelled my Genie account the next morning, as did others. The end of an era.

Ironically, Mike Webb was on the HelpDesk that last night. It was in the StarShip chatroom several years ago that he conceived The Amiga Monitor and enlisted his fellow HelpDeskers to make it happen. The "House that Deb Built" may no longer be inhabitable but its offspring is quite healthy!

Closing credits:

Special thanks to those loyal Amigans who gave so much to the StarShip in recent times:

Deb, Forrest and Dean.

Bill Lee, Mike Webb, Kyle Webb, Tone Becker, Greg Noggle, Paul Somerfeldt, Bill Graham, Beth Wise, Danny Green, Brian Jackson, Jerimy Campbell, Paul Bettes, Steve Wilson, and Fred Murray.

On the side:
Although promised for April of April 29th, the AmigaOnLine site is still empty......under construction....'You are early.' So much for that!

Return to the April 1998 (Volume 2 Issue 9) Main Index