ike Riccardi would spend hours in chatrooms hosted by America Online as a teenager.When he heard the sound of a door creeping open ring from the speakers of his desktop computer, he’d perk up because the sound meant a friend was online, and they were free to chat.Frequent, longtime users — it seems to mostly be the elderly — who log on to chat about gardening have increasingly been met with trolls who start arguments about President Donald Trump.And yes, there are people — unsure about Tinder — looking for love.“It was really cool, because even if your parents were in the next room, they couldn’t hear what you were talking about because you’re typing on your keyboard.”At AOL’s peak, more than 100 million AOL screen names existed, and users spent over a million hours chatting a year.Of course, celebrities were involved in this new way to connect with the fans.At the pinnacle of AOL, the company had 35 million paying subscribers. When it was still called Quantum Computer Services, the company debuted chatrooms.“That was a huge focus of the service,” Joe Schober, who was a beta tester at Quantum Computing Services in the late 1980s and officially worked for AOL from 1992 to 2014, tells Regular chat rooms could hold up to 23 people.
It’s incredibly difficult to even use the chatrooms, because you need AOL Desktop, a free program that when downloaded, feels like a glimpse back into the days of dial-up. And, just like in the 1990s, people looking for sex. She’s 72, and in her free time, she likes making miniature scenes and working in her garden.While her children don’t use AOL anymore, she’s kept it up.Her favorite room is “Garden Chat,” where she trades tips on how to grow vegetables and flowers.A 1993 Associated Press story even describes how then-President Bill Clinton was considering holding a town hall on AOL.His screen name was “Clinton Pz.”Clinton’s team of “young, high-tech specialists” were “pondering new ways of communicating directly with Americans,” reported the AP.User-created sexual fantasy rooms are also popular.