From 1988 to 1996, IBM and Sears jointly operated a graphically rich online service called Prodigy, which allowed users from all over the United States to dial in and view weather, stocks, news, and more while also exchanging emails and bulletin board posts with other users.
When the service shut down in 1999 (after a few ownership changes), Prodigy took its rich history of graphical screens with it. All seemed lost until a programmer named Jim Carpenter figured out a way to extract “fossilized” data from Prodigy client cache files (called STAGE.DAT). I wrote about his quest for The Atlantic back in 2014.
In response to the article, Jim and I received several STAGE.DAT files (from which we extracted various screens) along with screenshots of advertisements and artwork created for the service back in the day (if you’d like to help, see this page). In the slides ahead, I’ll take you on a brief virtual tour of the service using many screens that have never been seen before on the Internet. It’s a compelling (albeit incomplete) view of what using Prodigy was like in the early 1990s.