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One Man's Mission To Keep AOL's Legacy Alive


Now a story about one man's mission to recall a moment in time when America first started going online with America Online.


Ah, remember those days?


CORNISH: For our younger listeners, that's the sound of a dial-up modem. And in the mid '90s, AOL really wanted you to dial them up.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You've got mail.

SIEGEL: So they snail-mailed millions of Americans trial CDs with everything you'd need to get started. Install the software, dial a number, and you'd be connected to email, chat rooms, a brand-new online world.

CORNISH: But over the years, the company has lost much of its user base and reputation. And now it's being bought by Verizon as the telecom company moves into mobile video and advertising.

SIEGEL: And that news called one archivist into action.

JASON SCOTT: Hi. I'm Jason Scott, and I am trying to collect every AOL CD variation ever made.

CORNISH: Scott works for the Internet Archive, which is kind of like a museum for the Internet. And to him, these CDs are precious artifacts.

SCOTT: They are, in some ways, little time capsules about what online life was and why we wanted to get onto it so badly.

SIEGEL: And there are millions of little time capsules out there. AOL's former chief marketing officer claims, at one point, 50 percent of the CDs produced worldwide had an AOL logo on it.

CORNISH: And since Jason Scott started his online call for CDs, he found people are more than willing to get rid of theirs.

SCOTT: I've got people who claim they have milk crates of them that they're going to send me, and my intention is to put up every unique one.

SIEGEL: A possibly thankless task, but Scott says it's fine by him.

SCOTT: I'm doing it for generations beyond, so - there's some kid who's born right now who's going to thank me, and you're welcome, kid. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.