Prodigy was one of the things that modem owners got to play with before the advent of the World Wide Web. It was originally a joint venture of Sears and IBM. In 1993, when I was still in elementary school, my parents bought a brand-new 386SX with a whopping 80 mb hard drive and a Prodigy diskette, which used to cost $19.95.

Old-school Prodigy charged $19.95 a month for unlimited service. The service had a DOS-based interface with EGA graphics that, at the time, were the coolest thing on Earth.

Prodigy was more or less like a miniature, proprietary version of the Internet. For instance, they had Eaasy Sabre, which was a slightly simplified version of the Sabre airline reservations system and the precursor of Travelocity, but a million times more versatile than Travelocity... not to mention a million times as difficult to use. Ziff-Davis had a downloads site on Prodigy full of shareware titles. Prodigy also had hundreds of bulletin boards where my mother got all her recipes and I got all my QBasic programs. There was also Twisted Tales, an online Mad Libs generator.

To navigate around Prodigy, you typed in jumpwords, suspiciously similar to the keywords now used on AOL. The jumpword system was very intuitive, but the user ID system was not. Each account had a unique sequence of four letters and two numbers, and then each login name under that account would have its own letter at the end: my father's login was PTPG63A, and mine was PTPG63C.

Prodigy eventually integrated with the Internet, starting with e-mail. I first encountered the internet through FTP and gopher servers that were running on e-mail relay. Around 1994 or so, Prodigy released a Windows version of its software that included a crude web browser. Once they were linked to the web, they apparently realized that it didn't make sense to carry their own content locally, so they ended up abandoning their main service in 1996 and migrating all their users over to Prodigy Internet.

Prodigy's plug was officially pulled on the first of October, 1999 (thanks to Servo5678 for that tidbit).