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Users groups were springing up all over the country for much the same purpose, but, valuable as they were, they were bound by all the constraints geography imposed on what was still a very small hobby in a very big country.

Compu Serve began to take out some modest advertisements for the service in magazines like , and in the summer of 1980 dropped the separate Micro NET moniker altogether.

Subscribers who indulged could download the programs they purchased right away, seeing the price conveniently tacked onto their next Micro NET bill.

But by the time Micro NET Software Exchange launched it was already clear to astute observers that this means of loosey-goosey commercial-software distribution — it wasn’t unusual for a single developer to “publish” the same program through half a dozen exchanges — probably wasn’t long for this world, doomed by the very same professional software publishers they had done so much to spawn.

Some hobbyists logged onto Micro NET to get their fix of shop talk.

And so, while the online programming environments sat largely unused, the email system and the public message boards were soon full of activity.

Representing Compu Serve’s first substantial investment of programming effort just for Micro NET subscribers, it was modeled after initiatives like the TRS-80 Software Exchange that was run by magazine.

With the commercial-software industry still in its infancy, these so-called “exchanges” gave programmers a conduit for selling their home-grown creations to the public.

Helping his cause immensely was the fact that Sandy Trevor, who had replaced John Goltz as the company’s chief technical architect, was himself an enthusiastic supporter of the consumer service, sending the skunk-works group many of his keenest technical minds.


 
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