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The reasoning behind it pretty much explains all there is to know about me.Let's just say it’s a combination of Willie Mays, Neil Young, and a baseball film starring Tom Berenger.”“Still use mine,” another buddy chimed in.The response was immediate and unambiguous.“I do,” said one of my oldest pals, mere seconds after I posted.“My user name was forged on AOL and hasn’t changed since.I decided to get in touch with a couple of experts to help me sort it all out.Bill Cheswick is (as a former colleague once wrote) “a network-security god; he wrote the book, literally, on firewalls, coined the term ‘proxy server,’ [and] figured out how to map the Internet.” Earlier this week, I emailed Cheswick a simple question: why do adults continue to hang onto these (usually somewhat childish) screen names? “It is not surprising at all,” Cheswick wrote in response.You can browse through the list of available rooms. Click one of the chat rooms on the right, and then click Go Chat. To make your search easier, the available chat rooms are divided into different categories. You can also search for a specific chat room by using the Chat Finder feature.

In fact, for many of us—namely people who were born after Off the Wall but before Bad—America Online pretty much was the Internet. You went to your “computer room.” The den, the basement, wherever your family’s single PC—a big, clunky desktop—happened to be parked, blankly awaiting your return. Earlier this week, I asked my Facebook friends if they still used their Clinton-era AOL screen name to access other websites and services.

“We don't rethink our identities that often: we want to get on with our lives, seldom re-examining them. Still, I couldn’t help but suspect that there was more to the stickiness of these vintage screen names than inertia.

And changing screen names and passwords is a big hassle. ’”Basically, Cheswick was telling me that we’re too lazy to evolve—and that can be a problem. At least you can have different passwords on different accounts, and you really should. And so I went to straight to the source: AOL chief architect Joe Schober, who also happens to be the company’s longest-serving employee.

Maybe, in some cases, it’s too embarrassing to discuss.

Maybe it’s such a familiar fact, we take it for granted.

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