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July 16, 2012

Cleveland Free-Net

Twenty-six year ago today, Cleveland Free-Net was officially started. Originating at CWRU, Free-Net was the nation's first free, open-access community computer system. Designed by former faculty member Thomas Grundner, Free-Net grew out of the Department of Family Medicine’s St. Silicon’s Hospital and Information Dispensary which had emanated from the department’s computerized message network.

The system allowed anyone with a computer or terminal with a modem to call in and have access to a wide variety of electronic services and features. These services and features included: a post office where free electronic mail was available for anyone in northeast Ohio who registered in the system; a school system where Cleveland area schools could communicate via computer and where common databases could be accessed by teachers, parents, students, and administrators; a hospital, St. Silicon’s Hospital and Information Dispensary, where a wide variety of medical information and services were available including the opportunity to ask medically-related questions; a public square where people could make speeches from an electronic podium, be part of an online computer user group, join interest groups, and other services.

Originally Free-Net ran on an AT&T 3B2/400 computer with 4 megabytes of RAM and 72 MB of hard disk storage. The CPU was a WE 32100 chip with a 10 megahertz clock operating under AT&T’s Unix System V operating system. Software was written in “C.” AT&T donated $50,000 worth of computer equipment and software.

Ohio Governor Richard F. Celeste and Cleveland Mayor George V. Voinovich gave the system its official start at the opening of a summer festival in downtown Cleveland.

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The advent of the World Wide Web and other technologies eventually rendered Free-Net obsolete. Chat and News services for community users ended 9/1/1999 and Cleveland Free-Net was discontinued 9/30/1999.

Posted by hxy2 at July 16, 2012 01:40 PM

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