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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.
There was little trolling.“It wasn’t a troublesome space,” Weger 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.“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.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.With AOL, users could get information from the White House and “even send the president electronic mail, known as e-mail, if they want.”Angelique Weger, a 36-year-old front-end developer, recalls using chatrooms in middle school.She would spend time roleplaying as a medieval sorceress on the Red Dragon Inn sci-fi/fantasy chatroom and meeting teens from across the country in Teen Chat.“I really liked the sense of just being represented and just being understood by my words,” Weger tells “There wasn’t any sort of physical representation of yourself.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.She’s used chatrooms for the past 16 years, ever since her kids introduced her to AOL.While her children don’t use AOL anymore, she’s kept it up.Her favorite room is “Garden Chat,” where she trades tips on how to grow vegetables and flowers.