Jan 4, 2024 - History

Local company pioneered Internet access

Attendees of the dedication ceremony for a "CompuServe World Headquarters" historical marker. Photo: Courtesy of the city of Upper Arlington

Our Franklin County historical marker tour has visited the region's oldest homes, churches and organizations, but the most recently installed marker recognizes pioneers of the digital age.

The marker: CompuServe World Headquarters at 5000 Arlington Centre Blvd., Upper Arlington.

  • Local officials, former CompuServe employees and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted gathered for a Dec. 21 marker dedication ceremony honoring 50 years since the headquarters' opening.

Flashback: CompuServe was founded here in 1969 and later earned worldwide renown as the first major online information services provider.

  • "Its subscribers were the first to have access to email, online newspapers and magazines, the ability to share and download files, and a variety of popular chat forums," the marker reads.

What they're saying: Husted recalled living with a college roommate in the early 1990s who was a "CompuServe evangelist."

  • "(CompuServe) was so foundational to the world that we live in today and it happened right here."

The intrigue: CompuServe is also famous for inventing the "graphics interchange format," better known as GIF, back in 1987.

  • If you're still wondering how to pronounce it, company co-founder and CEO Jeff Wilkins offered the definitive answer at the ceremony: It's JIF, like the peanut butter.

The bottom line: The next time you share a meme of Guy Fieri, watch an Alexis Nikole Nelson video or read the Axios Columbus newsletter, tip your hat to our very own internet trailblazers.

4️⃣0️⃣ down, 88 to go.

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