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We LYLAS, But It's Time To Say TTFN As AOL Instant Messenger Signs Off For Good


AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM, signed off one final time this morning. The real-time, person-to-person computer messaging system that started 20 years ago was taken offline by its parent company, and along with it millions of archived teenage conversations. Here's NPR producer Kat Lonsdorf.

KAT LONSDORF, BYLINE: When I was a teenager, my response to this sound...


LONSDORF: ...Was practically Pavlovian. My heart would race. My fingers would twitch. I would leap to the family desktop computer. That...


LONSDORF: ...Was the sweet, sweet sound of a buddy coming online. It might have been my best friend or that cute boy from calculus. They were online.


LONSDORF: And ready to chat.


LONSDORF: Until my parents needed the dial-up line for an actual phone call. Here's Rob Meyer. He covers tech for The Atlantic.

ROBINSON MEYER: All you saw with AIM ever was just the words on the screen. But you were constantly imagining just the scene on the other side and what the person was doing there and how they were reacting. And in that way, it was such an imaginative form of media that made it so ripe for, like, all the possibility and excitement of teenagerhood (ph).

LONSDORF: AIM was born in 1997 and grew up during a time when computers were getting cheaper, Internet was getting faster and cell phones were just for talking. By 2002, AIM had more than a hundred million users. Everybody had it.

MEYER: Screen names were the, like, way of advancing your relationship with someone.

LONSDORF: Which is why creating the perfect screen name was super important. And since we were all teenagers, our screen names were deeply embarrassing. Here's some of my co-workers at NPR.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Thehighfivegirl (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Blackestofshadowz (ph), shadows spelled with a Z.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: CD54flyguy (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Chickenwings33 (ph). I don't know why. I think I thought, like, oh, that's a cool, like, food that dudes eat.

LONSDORF: AIM peaked before Facebook existed or Twitter, so this was the first time a lot of us were navigating what to share on the Internet and how, like the away message, which was basically a status update for when you weren't at the computer.

CAROLINE MOSS: An away message was sort of like an out-of-office for an 11-year-old.

LONSDORF: That's Caroline Moss. She's the 30-year-old behind the Twitter account @YourAwayMessage.

MOSS: So you would put up an away message and you would put up, like, song lyrics from a Dave Matthews Band song or, like, a quote from "The Notebook." And you'd pick your font and then you'd pick your color. And you'd be like, I'm out with the girls at the mall.

LONSDORF: But then Facebook showed up and smartphones. By 2012, the number of AIM users had dropped off significantly. We'd moved on to adulthood.

MOSS: It was there, watching us all grow up from the sidelines.

LONSDORF: Until today.


LONSDORF: I'm kitkatcutie21, or Kat Lonsdorf. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.