Rabbit Hole

Wow, what an internet rabbit hole that was!

To start, something came in to my personal email account that I needed to send to a couple folks at the company I work for. I decided to be lazy, and rather than send the email from my personal email account to my company email account and then forward it internally, I just sent it from my personal account. Now, I’m aware that my personal email account is really old and has a weird domain name, so there was a possibility of it being sent to Spam or blocked, or the folks I was sending to wouldn’t recognize that it was from me. On the other hand, my usual “first initial last name” user name was right there… What could go wrong?

But that got me wondering again about the age of that email account and domain name. I’ve looked a couple of times before but haven’t been quite able to ask the right questions. I vaguely remember some things, but it was a long time ago…

This was well before Gmail came along. This was before Google existed! This was before Windows XP. In fact, it was probably right around the time that Windows 95 came out, maybe just before. Now it’s administered by EarthLink, but before that it was Mindscape, and before that it was Netcom.

The email address is pwillett@ix.netcom.com. So how long have I had it, more or less, and what does the “ix” stand for?

I finally figured it out, more or less.

Yes, I remembered the Earthlink –> Mindscape –> Netcom evolution correctly. Netcom started in 1988, running as a local service in San Jose for college students who lived off campus. As they expanded and this thing called the World Wide Web started to be a thing, Netcom released a  program called NetCruiser. NetCruiser was originally released for Windows 3.1 in 1995, and I found a very old Cnet article from Jan 10, 1996 announcing that NetCruiser for the Mac would be available Q1 1996.

WOW! NetCruiser included the ability to display both GIF and JPEG files! It also included email, Usenet, IRC, Gopher, ftp, and Telnet! The Netcom/NetCruiser combo was $19.95 per month for 40 hours of peak time use and unlimited use off-peak (midnight to 09:00) and on weekends! And it worked up to 28.8 kbps, almost blinding speed!!

“Wow” indeed.

And that matches what I remember! I had a Netcom account for at least a while, a year or two maybe, before NetCruiser came out. I remember how much easier NetCruiser was than manually setting up programs for different parts of the Internet, like email, web browsers, usenet, and so on. I remember getting those CD’s with the NetCruiser distribution on them – probably have them buried off in the garage someplace.

So that places my ix.netcom.com usage back to at least 1994, possibly a year or two earlier. But where does the “ix” come from?

I finally found another article about Netcom that talks about that. The original Netcom email accounts were in the “user@netcom.com” format. But during the development of what became NetCruiser, the original name was “Internet Xpress.” They ended up making the name change to “NetCruiser” due to legal issues with the “Internet Xpress” name. But the “ix” prefix stuck.

So the account and address are at least 26 years old, possibly 27 or 28 years.

To come up with a more precise answer, I’ll bet that somewhere on an old enough set of back up disks I have backup copies of my Netscape or NetCruiser emails. But that rabbit hole will have to remain unexplored for tonight.

Today I also have a couple of different Gmail accounts, plus my work accounts, plus my CAF work accounts, plus… But the primary is always the “ix.netcom.com” account. Occasionally I’ll meet a fellow geek who recognizes it and knows that it means that I’ve been doing this for a long time.

Geek cred – gotta love it!

1 Comment

Filed under Computers, Paul

One response to “Rabbit Hole

  1. My first email was a compuserve.com, which is about 96, I think. When I first joined them, the Interest groups ran in c: prompt code windows within windows 3.1. I think that changed inside my first year, and all to the good. Then I started hanging out in interest groups all the time! Can’t remember what they called them now, but I remember chatting to Miriam Margolyes and a guy in the Cirque de Soleil when he was within range of an internet connection!


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