For those of you who remember the Atari 2600, few will remember the Gameline system.
Described as "the greatest thing to happen to computer games since the joystick", the Gameline allowed users to connect to a central computer and download games straight into the Atari.
They could choose from a database of over 900 games, and browse Atari information over the phone line. The year was 1983.

It ran off a 1200 baud built in modem, and had the unique feature of learning the fastest way to the game server and retaining that setting for reconnection.
The system was simple enough. You received your unit, plugged the small end into the game slot on the console, plugged the phone line into the unit, call with your credit card to create an account, and your were ready to go.
You could browse the database and select your game. The game would download and for $1 you would get approximately seven or eight "credits" on the selected game. After this, the Gameline would automatically disconnect.
However, the pricing system was unpopular with users. Why pay $1 for a few goes on a game, when you could purchase it down in the local toy shop for a few dollars more?
Technically, it was fantastic, but the games didn't have the depth or longevity to justify the cost of system, and the popularity of the 2600 at the time was waning.

Gameline fought back with these services:
MailLine - messages entered via joystick and fire button.
OpinionLine - open forums of messages which would be relayed to interested parties.
NewsLine - news headlines and weather both local and worldwide.
BankLine - a highly secure home banking system featuring electronic fund transfer.
InfoLine - Airline schedules, travel tips, educational material, classified ads, horoscopes, etc.

The Atari's fade into obscurity began here, but Gameline stayed alive with its new electronic publishing services.

Gameline evolved to form one of the worlds most famous content delivery companies: America Online.

With great thanx to Dan Skelton.

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