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“It was really cool, because even if your parents were in the next room, they couldn’t hear what you were talking about because you’re typing on your keyboard.”At AOL’s peak, more than 100 million AOL screen names existed, and users spent over a million hours chatting a year.

Of course, celebrities were involved in this new way to connect with the fans.

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I just liked engaging people with my words and relationships.”Weger made many friends from these chatrooms, some of whom she has met and still keeps in touch with today.

AOL was her first introduction to the internet, and on chatrooms, she spoke to a computer programmer for the first time. In exchange for being in the chatroom for certain hours and moderating, AOL would grant her free hours.

But much of the time, the conversations are much more colorful — in that they’re splashed with expletives.“Lately my favorite room has gotten a bunch of pervert-nasty people,” Bird says.

She calls them “disruptors.” When I ask her what the disruptors do, she says, “If you were reading Garden Chat right now, you would see. That’s not fun.”Bird misses the days when people would talk about growing annuals and perennials.

Users could also create private and public chatrooms and host scheduled events.

Initially, mostly tech-minded people joined AOL chatrooms, since at the time, it wasn’t as common to own a home computer.

Today, many chatrooms seem to have only one person loitering inside.

It’s incredibly difficult to even use the chatrooms, because you need AOL Desktop, a free program that when downloaded, feels like a glimpse back into the days of dial-up. And, just like in the 1990s, people looking for sex. She’s 72, and in her free time, she likes making miniature scenes and working in her garden.

ike Riccardi would spend hours in chatrooms hosted by America Online as a teenager.

When he heard the sound of a door creeping open ring from the speakers of his desktop computer, he’d perk up because the sound meant a friend was online, and they were free to chat.

Now primarily a digital media company, AOL — it owns about them: the company refused to make anyone available for this story. But when she has about an hour, she’ll log on to chat.

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