RIP AOL AIM

Among all the distressing news of the world, I heard today that AOL Instant Messenger is shutting down on 12/15/17.

AIM was the first instant messenger I used. My AOL account handle was bfeld, which stuck and is generally my handle for all things (like Twitter) unless someone else grabbed it, in which case it’s bradfeld.

On 9/11/01, I was in NYC. I had taken a redeye the night before so I took a nap in the hotel room after I checked in and slept through the first World Trade Center tower collapse. When I woke up I was disoriented from my redeye and totally confused (like many) as to what was going on. I called Amy and caught her on the way to the airport (she was heading to NYC) and had been trying to reach me but couldn’t. There were tears but we figured out enough that she turned around and went home.

That was the last phone call I was able to make for a while. I was in the Benjamin Hotel and the phone wasn’t able to dial out. My cell phone couldn’t get a signal. As a last resort, I turned on my computer to see if I could connect to the hotel Internet.

That worked just fine. All of my IM apps opened up (AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft, and ICQ). Email worked fine also.

So for the rest of 9/11, until I went to Jenny Lawton’s house in the evening with Paul Berberian and Nick Cuccaro to get Jenny’s car and drive home to Boulder, I hovered over my computer.

AOL IM was probably 10x more active than the other IM apps combined. Amy and I went back and forth in real time throughout the day. My Mobius partners were equally distributed across AOL and Yahoo and a few randoms were on Microsoft and ICQ.

The little yellow AIM man was burned into my brain that day. I can’t imagine getting through 9/11 without him – and AIM.

AIM – you served me well for many years. Thank you. May you rest in peace for all of digital eternity.


Also published on Medium.