Help me remember this Y2K-era piece of technology!
June 17, 2015 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Around 1999-2001 (maybe earlier or later) my grandfather ordered a "PC". It wasn't a computer in the traditional sense, but basically an Internet terminal.

If my memory serves me right it had a monitor with handful of colors and a keyboard and mouse. All the insides must have been behind the monitor. I remember the interface was similar to AOL where everything was funneled through a homescreen and that is where you checked your mail and got your weather and stock information. Going to other websites looked terrible and it seemed like the browser had a hard time formatting anything that wasn't a proprietary website. It was awful. And pricey. The idea was that you paid a the company a monthly fee that covered the dial-up and the "computer" only cost $99 bucks.

This is something that would have been advertised in the Wall Street Journal or AARP around 15/16 years ago. I could have sworn the name was "Web.0" or something terribly Y2K like that.

Does anyone remember anything like this?
posted by GreatValhalla to Technology (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Was it a WebTV (known as MSN TV later)?
posted by rachelpapers at 7:21 AM on June 17, 2015

Response by poster: No, It didn't hook up to your tv. It came with its own monitor.
I remember my grandfather had it set up on the kitchen table.
posted by GreatValhalla at 7:24 AM on June 17, 2015

Was it the MailStation? My grandma had one (and hated it)!
posted by kittyb at 7:27 AM on June 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by The Deej at 7:28 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Agree with rachelpapers. I remember the $99 price of WebTV. But it was a box, not a monitor. You used your own TV for the display. That was supposed to make it feel comfortable, particularly to seniors. But it also made for a very bad unreadable display.

On preview: Oops. Well, for the rest of you, if you find a WebTV on eBay, don't buy it.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:28 AM on June 17, 2015

Response by poster: It was very close to the execution of the "Mailstation", kittyb. Think of the mailstation, but make the display larger and add a mouse.
Now that I'm thinking of it, it could have been a monochrome display.
posted by GreatValhalla at 7:29 AM on June 17, 2015

Response by poster: It wasn't Audrey, Deej. It looked more like I-opener that I found from your link. So thanks for that clue!

But it still wasn't the I-opener.

Gosh, seems like there was a bunch of these 99$ internet terminals hitting all at the same time.
posted by GreatValhalla at 7:32 AM on June 17, 2015

Probably not the Sony eVilla, because the sales model doesn't match. But added for the sake of possibly adding another breadcrumb to the trail.
posted by The Deej at 7:35 AM on June 17, 2015

There are a few discontinued "Internet Appliances" listed on this Wikipedia page.
posted by The Deej at 7:37 AM on June 17, 2015

A Kaypro?
posted by Melismata at 7:41 AM on June 17, 2015

This sounds familiar to me too. It might have been Juno or Netzero, which were cheap ISPs marketed to older folks. They both had horrible proprietary software that you used to check mail and surf the web. I can't find any sources on it but I seem to recall that you could buy cheap computers preloaded with the software.
posted by methroach at 7:56 AM on June 17, 2015

Response by poster: I think you are closer to right, methroach. I feel like it was a front for Juno or Netzero or someone like that.
posted by GreatValhalla at 7:59 AM on June 17, 2015

Was it called an e-machine?
posted by Ms Vegetable at 8:15 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I seem to recall that Circuit City sold an all-in-one internet appliance which came bundled with cable internet (roadrunner or some such). The notion was that the appliance was sold below cost and the loss was made up in the inflated internet service.

IIRC, that failed when hackers opened up the box and discovered a more-or-less stock PC with IDE ports, that could be hooked up to run Linux or Windows. Hackers bought them up without signing up for service and the company sunk quietly into obscurity leaving an important caveat that will likely be ignored by other hardware manufacturers.
posted by plinth at 8:23 AM on June 17, 2015

Other possibilities: Icebox, Gateway Touchpad, MSN Companion?

I remember there being a huge fight between my parents about whether we should get one of these POSs for my grandma or not vs a regular full computer. These were the Big Gift for my friends' grandparents that year.
posted by phunniemee at 8:26 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do you recall if the logo involved making the name of the product look like a guy's face, with glasses and a tie? I vaguely remember some kind of "internet-lite" product like that, only I remember it being some kind of ISP kind of thing, and I remember it being named with a person's name like "Bob" or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:35 AM on June 17, 2015

> ... hackers opened up the box and discovered a more-or-less stock PC with IDE ports

That was the i-Opener, plinth. Such a great business plan.
posted by scruss at 10:31 AM on June 17, 2015

Response by poster: It looks most like the MSN Companion.
I feel like any of these could have been it, but nothing is hitting the bulls eye in my mind.

Seems like every company around this time had a great idea of bundling a shitty computer and a shitty ISP together.
posted by GreatValhalla at 11:19 AM on June 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

MS Bob was totally a product, but it was just an overlay on an OS and would run on any hardware that could run Windows.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 12:34 PM on June 17, 2015

« Older Renting/Borrowing a dog for walking tourism in New...   |   Looking For Short, Fun and Smart Fiction Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.