I was there, and by “there” I mean “here, at this desk, logged in,” when Prodigy Classic was put out of its misery just after 11:59 pm on the first of November, 1999. Of course, I’d warned about that several months earlier:
The real disappointment, at least to me, comes not with the announcement of the termination of the service it had been expected for some time but with the management’s willingness to blame everything on Y2k. It is no doubt true that Prodigy’s proprietary technologies are not fixable for Y2k; however, Y2k is just the tip of the iceberg. The core of the Prodigy software is ten years old. By the standards of the Net, it’s Fred Flintstone stuff.
We have now discovered that Y2k was, at best, a convenient excuse:
After that shutdown, loyal Prodigy customers, who had hung on to the bitter end, were suspicious about the stated reasons for the closing. And they were mad. Fifteen years later, we can now confirm that their suspicions were correct: “As far as I know, Prodigy Classic being shut down was not influenced by Y2K issues,” recalls [Michael] Doino, the Prodigy employee who actually pulled the plug on the service in 1999.
Where is that enormous amount of data, anyway? Much of it has probably evaporated; the way P* assembled pages, using cached bits from here and there, makes it darn near impossible to trace. And yet:
Fifteen years later, a Prodigy enthusiast named Jim Carpenter has found an ingenious way to bring some of that data back from the dead. With a little bit of Python code and some old Prodigy software at hand, Carpenter, working alone, recently managed to partially reverse-engineer the Prodigy client and eke out some Prodigy content that was formerly thought to have been lost forever.
The ultimate goal of all this? “Some day,” Carpenter says, “I’d like to create something to emulate the Prodigy backend and serve up requested objects to the client.”
I was in my usual chat room when the last goodbye came; I’ve kept about 16k of that room’s final chatter. (Hey, it’s only 15 years old; I have email older than that.)