Boston CitiNet

Started in 1983, Boston CitiNet was developed by Applied Videotex Systems, Inc. of Belmont, Massachusetts . The service allowed modem-equipped personal computer users to dial-in and access a range of information and messaging services including chat, forums, email and a variety of content. There Were Several other companies Offering paid / subscription services have the time like The Source , CompuServe and Boston-based Delphi . Boston Citinet has been unique and has been supported by advertising. $ 9.95 – an early example of the popular freemium business model.

Originally launched in 1982 under the name YellowData (“your modem of the walking”), the service was renamed Boston CitiNet in 1985. The software platform for the service was developed by Considine Computing Services (CCS), a DEC system integrator. It starts with a micro-PDP / 11 computer with over 100 dial-up phone lines coming to the base of a trainer on the Trapelo Road in Belmont. In 1985, it was upgraded to run on DEC Micro-Vax II. The founders of AVS were Thomas Considine [1] and Richard Koch, who were joined by Myron Kassaraba [2] and John Pollock.

One of the sources of CitiNet’s success was “FREE, EASY and ASCII”. [3] This compared to some of the more graphically based systems that required special hardware to access. Viewtron , an early videotex service offered by Knight-Ridder and AT & T required a $ 900 terminal called a Scepter for Access. [4]

CitiNet was a prototype of the future Internet portals, with daily content, online shopping, and social activities. Some of the early advertisers were several local employment agencies, auto leasing agencies, magazine publishers such as Byte Magazine and a large movie theater chain (Sack Theaters). Online vendors sold cheese, cookies, music disks, VCRs, fax machines, and groceries. One of the most popular services was the Daily Horoscope by astrologer Lillian Bono. A partnership made by the Boston Computer Society (BCS), also, the official videotex service of the World Trade Center (Boston). Sports was covered by reporters (like today ‘TRS-80 Model 100 . Then, social interaction with the day, free email, multi-user chat, and dozens of forums.

There have been several pioneering services developed by AVS or their partners such as:

  • SKIDATA – this is a service provided by New England Ski Areas Council (NESAC) that can be accessed online via modem, using a 24-hour ski conditions line that is powered by DECTalk or at a laser-disk kiosk, developed by Telematic Systems, that was located in the flagship SkiMarket retail store on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston. The service was a smash hit and was featured in Businessweek.
  • REALNET [5] – an online real estate service developed through a partnership with Tom Pfau.
  • BOCOEX – an online computer marketplace for Randall’s Boston Computer Exchange .
  • TRADECARD INTERNATIONAL – Online barter exchange

In 1985, CitiNet had over 5,000 paying subscribers. In the period from 1985-1989, AVS and CitiNet participated in NYNEX’s Info-Look and Bell Atlantic’s Information Gateway project, which was contracted by Pacific Bell to provide local information services for the Victoria Project, an early trial of ISDN services to the home tested in the community of Danville, CA. CitiNet also pioneered the practice of “click-stream analysis” to support the advertising business. which is the basis of modern predictive analytics. AVS through their franchises and gateway projects produced some of the very first newspaper “online versions” – Newsday Online, Globe Entertainment, Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Omaha World Herald.

In the mid-1980s the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) had installed packet-switching (X.25) networks, from Siemens and Northern Telecomm, and wanted to encourage the burgeoning dial-up network to find a home on regional networks. CitiNet provided and operated the service hosting for the project Victoria, with PacBellus providing X.25 transport and trialing ISDN over twisted pair, Apple provided Macintoshes for each home, and the San Francisco Chronicle provided news stories. The information gateway architecture for NYNEX’s “Information Gateway”, in which Siemens EDX-P provides a virtual portal to manage all sessions between services. And AVS stood up at “Gateway Service Bureau” in Pennsylvania for Atlantic Bell, and the Philadelphia Inquirer online in 1988,

Boston CitiNet user base based at approx. 45,000 users. It continued to operate until 1990.


  1. Jump up^ “Sign Up – LinkedIn” .
  2. Jump up^
  3. Jump up^ Kassaraba, Myron (May 6, 1986). “Back to the Classroom” (PDF) . Proceedings of Videotex 86 Conference . Part 2: 138. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016.
  4. Jump up^ Dupagne, Michel (August 1989). “Applying the French Minitel Model to US Videotex Consumer: The Case of the Electronic Directory Service” (PDF) . Annual Meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication : 4.
  5. Jump up^ “NATIONAL NOTEBOOK: Boston House Hunting By Computer” . The New York Times . September 14, 1986.


  • Banks, M. (2008) “On the Way to the Web – The Secret History of the Internet and its Founders”

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