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Welcome to Quantum Link

q-link members guide cover picture
Q-link Members Guide cover picture
Quantum Link home screen
The Quantum Link home screen
Super-Q welcome screen
Super Q - where users could send each other music files and chat
MMO Habitat welcome screen
The welcome screen for the Q-Link MMO Habitat

Quantum Link was a U.S. and Canadian online service aimed at home users that operated from November 5th 1985 to the November 1st 1995. It was available for the most popular home computer ever, the Commodore 64, as well as the Commodore 128.

Quantum Link was not connected to the internet, it was its own standalone system based on the Play Net software.

Q-link chat room
Users chatting to each other in real time in one of the chat rooms.
Q-link demo screen smilies explaination
Qshorthand explaination, showing abbreviations, smilies and 'emoticons'.

Q-Links modern features

Quantum Link featured, and pioneered, many of the online services that we are accustomised to having today, including:

  • Instant messaging
  • E-mail
  • Chat rooms
  • Forums
  • Shopping
  • Travel reservations
  • Classifieds
  • Auctions
  • News
  • Magazines
  • Encyclopedia
  • E-learning
  • Music streaming
  • Digital photos
  • Software downloads

Quantum Link is also cited as being a significant step in the evolution of instant messaging, being the first mass consumer IM system.

Navigating Q-Link

Users could navigate Quantum Link by the use of a joystick, or if they had one, a mouse. After first logging in users were presented with the Quantum Link home screen which showed the various areas of the system. The cursor could be moved to the area of choice and the fire button (or mouse button) used to select it. The keyboard is also used extensively within Q-link to control games, read information and interact with other users.

More information on each of the available Q-link areas can be found below, taken from the Q-link Members Guide.

Commodore Information Network

Commodore Information Network
Commodore Information Network welcome screen

Your Commodore connection
Have questions ahout your Commodore? Interested in joining user group? Here's direct line to Commodore experts who want to help. It's an effective way to get prompt responses to questions and leam about the latest technical developments, software, and new products. You'll also find System Operators (SysOps) who handle each of the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) including graphics, games, applications, music, pro gramming, telecommunications, computer hardware, and more. There's library of popular Commodore articles and programs... and more! Choose "Commodore Information Network" from Q-Link's main menu.

Commodore Software Showcase

Commodore Software Showcase
Commodore Software Showcase welcome screen

Preview new releases
Q-Link connects you to experts inside companies like Berkeley Softworks. Electronic Arts and Activision. You can talk to the publishers themselves about new and popular programs and "test drive" them before you buy! After you buy, you can get valuable user support. There's special "GEOS Arena" where you can get answers to your GEOS questions on the spot. You can also browse the public domain software libraries containing 15,000 programs for beginners and experts alike. Choose "Commodore Software Showcase" from Q-Link's main menu.

The Learning Center

The Learning Center
The Learning Center welcome screen

Fun and important rewards
From school reports to settling bet. there's no better reference than the Crolier's Academic American Encyclopedia you'll find here! Attend Q-Link's Community College. Tap public domain programs that challenge you in scores of subjects. There's even an online "Tutoring Center" which provides live tutoring sessions, formal courses, plus one-on-one private tutoring, taught by qualified teachers. You can also actively share information with other Commodore owners interested in using their computers as educational tools. Chat with teachers, administrators and students at all levels! Choose "The Learning Center" from Q-links main menu.

News and Information

News and Information
News and Information welcome screen

Up-to-date international reports
Connect with reports from NewsGrid, one of the leading services of national, international, and business news. Check weather forecasts, business summaries, and financial reports. StockLink* lets you buy and sell stocks online and check prices. There's also expert advice on managing personal finances. Plus: the Sports Report... Entertainment News with movie, music, and TV' reviews, and soap opera summaries... and way to air your opinions with "Express Yourself!" Choose "News and Information from Q-Link's main menu.

People Connection

People Connection
People Connection welcome screen

Commodore owners' friendly meeting place
Chat with other Q-Link members from across the U.S. and Canada in public and private "rooms." Join friendly conversation, or toast your new friends in an online pub. Play an online game. Attend meeting. Participate in holiday celebration. People Connection's special Auditorium features question and answer sessions with Commodore experts. Play trivia games or Bridge... relax in RabbiUack's Casino3", play Chess or Backgammon, or compete in game shows and win prizes. It's all in People Connection, Q-Link's social center! Choose "People Connection" from Q-Link's main menu.

Just For Fun

Just For Fun
Just For Fun welcome screen

Relax, meet and mingle
Visit the "Crossroads Cafe" where poets and writers are brainstorming and sharing constructive criticism. You'll find libraries full of works by Q-Link members. There's "Flea Market." as well as formal and informal conference areas. Across the way, there are clubs meeting to discuss trivia, music, sports, science fiction, fantasy, family support, literature and more. This is the place where you may pursue your special interests and hobbies, l^eam how to play games on Q-Link. Choose "Just For Fun" from Q-Link's main menu.

The Mall

The Mall
The Mall welcome screen

Shopping and travel planning at home
Browse Comp-u-store, the nation's largest online store, for discounts on appliances, stereo equipment, sporting goods, and luxury items. Visit the "Q-Link Store" for Q-Link sweatshirts, caps, visors and more. There's the Express Music Catalog, too. and the Software Finder. Use the Q-Link classifieds to buy, sell or trade almost anything! Check airline rates and schedules and reserve flights, rooms, or rental cars through American Airline's Eaasy Sabre1" Travel Service. Choose "The Mall" from Q-Link's main menu.

Customer Service Center

Customer Service Center
Customer Service Center welcome screen

Fast, friendly help
Need help downloading or formatting disk? Want to change your screen name? Want to leam how to play Q-Link games? Here's where to get answers plus descriptions of all the Q-Link 'departments." Also... go to "Best Bete" for up-to-the-minute information about today's events. Use the "Members' Online Guide" for helpful tips on getting the most out of Q-Link. Call up "Q-Link Bill and Q-Pons" for the current status of your charges and your Q-Pon bonus balance. Also, please read the Terms of Service for important legal information about the service. Choose "Customer Service Center" from Q-Link's main menu.

Q-Link Post Office

Instant communications
You can send and receive messages from any of your Q-Link friends across the country. .And whether they're sending you long, newsy letter, or answering your request for buyer for your printer, it's fast, efficient way to communicate. From any "department" except the Customer Sen/ice Center, choose F7.

Habitat - The first graphical MMO

The welcome screen for the Q-Link MMO Habitat
Designing your character in the Q-Link MMO Habitat

A map of Club Caribe, including the locations 'Lover's Point' and 'Nude Beach'

In quarter 2 1986 LucasFilm released a beta version of its groundbreaking, innovative and influencial online game Habitat on the Q-Link network.

One of its creators described Habitat as "a multi-participant online virtual environment, a cyberspace". Today we would describe it as an MMO (massively multiplayer online game) or MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game).

Habitat was the first mass market multi-user game with an interactive graphical environment.

The pilot run of Habitat ran from 1986 to 1988. A smaller version of the game, but with vastly improved graphics (e.g. improved avayat facial expressions) called Club Calibre was released in quarter 3 of 1988 as part of Quantum Links 'People Connection'.

The following quotations are taken from the Habitat Technology Transfer Seminar - Lucasfilm --> Fujitsu, 1988.

Pay to play beta test

The Habitat Beta Test was actually a paying pilot-test. The testers would be paying $0.08 per minute to play and in this way we could see if Habitat was financially feasible. ...We wanted to see if Habitat was fun enough for paying customers. ...

"But in the last month, while I was playing Habitat I spent $270!!!"

$270 = 57 hours or over 100 times his previous (Q-Link) peak usage!
We must have made it "too much fun!"

Habitat (for some) was addictive. ...
Yet another spent over $1,000 in one month in Habitat. At around $300 and $600 dollars, he was mailed a message sugeesting he "check out his usage in the billing section". If we could get 20 more of this type of "rich" user, we would be profitable!

Internal economics

The new rich class new began to distribute their wealth by having treasure hunts. There were other quests and hunts that gave many users fat bank accounts. Soon a true economy began to emerge: Heads. Since you can change heads in Habitat, and unique heads were often prizes or gifts from the oracle of very expensive, their value skyrocketed.

Murder & theft

At first, during early testing, we found out that people were taking stuff out of others hands and shooting people in their own homes. We changed the system to allow thievery and gunplay only in non-city regions.

The Order of the Holy Walnut

One of the outstanding proponents of the anti-violence-in-Habitat view was also the Habitat Minister. A Greek Orthodox Minister opened the first church in Habitat. His canons forbid his disciples to carry weapons, steal, or participate in violence of any kind. It was unfortunate that I had to eventually put a lock on the Church's front door because every time he decorated (with flowers), someone would steal and pawn them while he was not logged in!

Avatar weddings

Three Habitat weddinges took place in that church. These were not human-human weddings, but Avatar-Avatar. Their turfs were joined so that they could cohabit.

The first Habitat divorce occured 2 weeks after the 3rd wedding. I guess Habitat is a bit too close to the real world for my taste! The 1st habitat lawyers handled the divorce, including public postings all about town.

Habitat Documentation

Two users avatars chat in Habitat
Two user avatars chat at a Habitat location
Habitat game screen
Habitat game screen from Commodore Microcomputers, Nov/Dec 1986

Connecting to Quantum Link

Quantum link login
Quantum link login
Q-link demo costs screen
Quantum Link demo costs information screen

Users connected to Q-Link via dial-up modems, speeds ranged from 300 to 2400 baud, with the most common being 1200 baud. 1200 baud is equivilent to 0.0001430511475 Mbps (Megabytes per second).

Quantum Link was only available on the Commodore 64, the most popular home computer ever, with around 20 million units produced. The Commodore 64 featured a 1MHz CPU & 64k of memory and 16 colours with a display of 320x200. The C64 had no hard drive, software was loaded on the computer via 5 1/4 inch floppies, cassette tapes and cartridges.

Commodore 64 breadbin
Commodore 64 computer, original 'bread-bin' design

Quantum Link costs

Q-link demo costs screen
Quantum Link demo costs information screen

Quantum Link was open on weekday evenings and all day on weekends. Subscription costs were $9.95 per month ($22.04 today), with additional fees of six cents per minute to access 'plus' areas. Each subscription plan included one hours of free plus access per month. Plus content included many of the most attractive features of the system. It was possible to earn additional free plus time by hosting forums and trivia games.

Q-Link costs...
only $9.95 per month for unlimited Basic service which includes access to the latest news, entertainment updates, Grolier's Academic American Encyclopedia, Commodore Hotline, Customer Service Center, Q-Link Store, and much more. Each month, you also get one free hour of Plus services, such as online tutoring, and software previews. After your free tour, Plus services cost just 8 cents a minute -- less than $5 an hour. Telecommunications charges are also included in your Q-Link membership as long as you connect through one of our local access numbers available in over 600 cities. Refer to the Q-Link Local Access Directory.

Q-Link rewards members with these benefits:

  • Q-Link easy-to-use software
  • Unlimited Basic service
  • The monthly "UPDATE" magazine (a $12 value) packed with information on events scheduled during the month.
  • 1 hour per month of FREE "Plus" Service
  • Full-color, interactive screens
  • Special offers, bonuses, and discounts
  • 15,000 public domain Commodore programs
  • Chances to win prizes

AppleLink Personal Edition & PC Link

AppleLink loading screen
AppleLink loading screen

Annouced at the Apple Fest conference, AppleLink Personal Edition debuted in the summer of 1988. It was based on the Quantum Link software and created by Quantum Computer Services in conjunction with Apple. Before this point Apple had no online service available for consumers, offering only AppleLink (launched in 1985), which was accessible by Apple employees and dealers.

Subscribers to the service had to pay a $35 annual fee ($70.51 today), as well as a $6 ($12.09) per hour night time and $15 ($30.22) per hour daytime rate.

PC Link was launched in August 1988 in a joint venture with Tandy Corporation and offered access to Quantum Link service to IBM compatible PCs.

America Online

AOL logo
AOL logo

Quantum Computer Services parted ways with Apple in October 1989 and in 1991, Quantum was renamed America Online.

By 1993 AOL had produced a Windows version, introduced its own email addressesss and added true internet access to its service. Its Quantum Link service was ended in 1994.

America Online was promoted as an online service for people unfamiliar with computers, in contrast to Compuserve which had established it self with technical users.

AOL became infamous for the free discs of its software that were given away widely from its launch, a practice that begin in the early days of Quantum Link, with its software being bundled with Commodore modems as early as 1985.

Q-Link promotional video

Promotional video of Quantum Link from 1986. Demonstrates and explains some of the functionality and features of Quantum Link. Its an impressive demonstration of the systems capabilities and worth a watch.

Quantum Link Documentation

The Quantum Link brochure

A digital version of the Q-Link printed brochure that was given away with various other Commodore products, such as GEOS, can be found below (includes screenshots). This literature would be accompanied by Q-Link software, allowing users to sign upto the service if they had a modem, or navigate a Q-Link demo on the disk. The image you see below is a recreation is the standard Q-Link 'home' screen.

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