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5 fun things you may not have known about AOL

The former America Online has a quirky history.

AOL signAOL signThese days, AOL is known as "Aol." (Photo: Jason Persse / Flickr)

This morning, news broke that Verizon was buying AOL Inc., essentially purchasing the one-time dial-up giant for its burgeoning online and mobile advertising business.

AOL – or "Aol," according to its current logo – has been through so many iterations over its 30-plus-year history that people may not even realize what it has had its hands in, from being one of the forerunners of social media with the '90s-era "chat room" to owning the Huffington Post.

But here are five things about the company that you may or may not have known:


'You've Got Mail!' was originally recorded on a cassette deck

Elwood Edwards is the man behind one of the most famous second-and-a-half voice snippets ever recorded: the "You've Got Mail!" notification that millions of AOL users heard for years. What's interesting is that not only did Edwards' wife "volunteer" his voice to then-CEO Steve Case, but Edwards recorded the line on an oh-so-20th-century cassette deck. The folks at AOL digitized it to add to their software.


AIM wouldn't exist without ICQ

AIM Running ManA plush doll of the AOL Instant Messenger "Running Man" logo. (Photo: K W Reinsch /Flickr)

Computer nerds know about ICQ. It was the first standalone chat software available to the public. Released in 1996, it allowed real-time chats between private user accounts in a format that everyday computer users could understand. It was developed by an Israeli company called Mirabilis, which AOL acquired in 1998, a year after it introduced its own chat software, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).


AOL still has millions of dial-up users

The company's most recent annual report says that the company still has 2.1 million dial-up users. We're not talking about people who have an aol.com e-mail account. These are customers who still use the AOL software and a modem that makes the noises you hear in the video above.


At one point they made half of all CDs produced

AOL CD as bird scarerSomeone found a good use for all those AOL CDs, using them to scare birds away from plants. (Photo: Gilgongo/Flickr)

During the latter half of the '90s, it seemed like a signup CD for AOL came in the mail every other day. Ever wonder exactly how many discs the company produced? TechCrunch, acquired by AOL in 2010, wanted to know, and tried to get quotes from Case and other execs from that era. The most shocking piece of info was given to TechCrunch by a former AOL marketing chief: "At one point, 50 percent of the CDs produced worldwide had an AOL logo on it. We were logging in new subscribers at the rate of one every six seconds."


They produced an ad with Jerry Stiller and Snoop Dogg

Speaking of the flood of AOL CDs, this 2004 ad did a nice job of poking fun at that era of computing. But it tops itself by not only bringing on Frank Costanza himself – Jerry Stiller – but brings out Snoop Dogg, as well.

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