My first account with AOL was in 1998. My then-daughter-in-law insisted it was the best thing for someone with her first computer, since it was "user-friendly". Along the way I learned to use Internet Explorer rather than the AOL browser, and came to prefer it. There were cheaper Internet providers around, and I would have left AOL except for one thing: The Christian Senior chat room, and all the lovely people there.
By the time that chat self-destructed, I had gone to cable-modem, so without that room, I had no reason to keep AOL. I'd downloaded AOL Instant Messenger, which meant I could still keep in touch with my AOL friends, and even make an AIM chat room where we could all meet together. I had no regrets.
When I bought a new computer in 2002, I got six months of AOL free. I wasn't even going to bother with it, but one day in a fit of boredom, I signed on and made myself a new screen name. I'd use it a few minutes a day, then an hour or two; and before long I was using AOL most of the time. I found out a lot of things had improved.
E-mail, for instance: Five years ago, my AOL mailbox contained mostly junk mail. I got offers of Britany Spears nude pictures, chances to enlarge body parts I don't own, and invitations to meet singles. "Delete" was the main mail function I used.
They've fixed that now. If I hear, "You Got Mail", I really do have mail, not porn!
Then there's the free firewall and anti-virus. I was using AVG antivirus before, and was surprised one day when AOL's McKafee caught a Trojan that AVG had missed.
Two years ago, when I first returned, I tried AOL radio and found it lacking; they advertised too much. I was working at the time, so I subscribed to commercial-free Yahoo Radio. When I joined the ranks of the unemployed, I gave up Yahoo and went back to AOL radio. I was happy to find they've cut way back on the advertising. And there are so many genres, I can find one to fit any mood. Today I'm listening to folk: Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul andMary... wonderfully soothing music that takes me back to the days when I first learned to do a C-chord on my guitar.
Last but not least, there are AOL journals. This is what will keep me with AOL. I know there are lots of places on the Internet where you can blog, but this is where I started, and I'm used to it. Besides, most of the new people I've met are right here, in J-Land.
If I need help with a journal, there are a couple of real people who will answer my questions: John Scalzi and Joe, of Magic Smoke. For instance, this morning I decided to unblock some people I long ago shut out of this journal, and couldn't figure out how to do it. I e-mailed John and received my answer in short order.
Most computer experts seem to hate AOL, saying it bogs down computers, puts spyware on your hard drive, and causes a myriad of problems that are beyond my feeble understanding. And don't forget the intellectuals who say AOL is for idiots who are too lazy or too stupid to learn anything else.
Personally, I feel AOL is making a great effort at improving themselves. And I hear there are more, and better, things coming.
Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. AOL feels a lot like home, these days.
Oh, and for you folks I've had blocked, you won't have to switch names now to read my journal. I do feel honored that people would take such pains to see what I'm up to, though.