Looking back on The Source, the first online "information utility," through teletype transcripts

While working on a project to refurbish a 1970s teletype machine, Ars Technica writer, Cameron Kaiser, unearthed a manual and a cache of teletype printouts from The Source, the online service that predated Prodigy, Delphi, and QuantumLink.

The discover created a nostalgic gateway into the emerging online world of 1979:

TCA launched The Source at COMDEX in June 1979. The one-time $100 subscription fee deterred all but the determined, and even off-peak, it was $2.75 an hour billed to the minute and rounded up (in 2022 dollars, that was $391 to start and $10.75 a pop). Off-peak was defined as 6 pm to 7 am Eastern time and all day on weekends and select holidays. If you were foolish, desperate, or rich enough to use it during business hours, it was $15 an hour (about $59 an hour today).

Dialcom used Prime minicomputers, Prime being at one time the sixth largest vendor of such systems. The earliest Prime systems from 1972 were upwardly compatible with the 16-bit Honeywell Series-16 machines. Their developers had originally worked on the machines at NASA, but they were 32-bit. Because of this engineering-centric background, early Primes were designed to run Fortran and Prime's operating system PRIMOS (or, for a time, "PR1MOS"). The transcripts here all give the system version as 2.x, so the Dialcom systems in use at the time were Prime 200 machines, which ran that particular version.

Dialcom's servers were located in the Washington, DC, area, where many of its customers were also located (including a large number of US Representatives); The Source was in nearby McLean, Virginia. Accessing Dialcom from DC was a matter of dialing a local number, which connected you directly to the server as a terminal.

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