On CompuServe in the 1990's, my ID was "73313, 3443". I still remember it today because it was (seemed) way more important to me than any phone numbers I ever memorized.

According to Wikipedia:

The original CompuServe user IDs consisted of seven octal digits in the form 7xxxx,xx - a legacy of PDP-10 architecture - (later eight and nine octal digits in the form 7xxxx,xxx[20] and 7xxxx,xxxx and finally ten octal digits in the form 1xxxxx,xxxx)

How, exactly, was this User ID format "a legacy of PDP-10 architecture"?

up vote 26 down vote accepted

It appears to be a legacy from TOPS-10. The easy part: octal was more popular in the 60s and 70s in general, but especially at DEC, which produced a number of 18-bit machines; the 3 bits per symbol divides 18 bits evenly, but the 4 bits per symbol of hex doesn't.

CompuServe's beginnings weren't as a bulletin board or ISP, but as a general-purpose timesharing system, where people could dial in and run programs on one of their PDP-10 machines running a Compuserve-modified version of the TOPS-10 operating system. On TOPS-10 a user ID was called a Project / Programmer Number (PPN), and consisted of two 18-bit parts (the project number and the programmer number), each written in octal, and separated by a comma — e.g. 3426,81, and this was how you would log into the system. The practice of giving subscribers project numbers over 70000 was probably a way to ensure separation between subscribers and system users, but I can't find any documentation of that; it's only my guess.

Compuserve continued to use PDP-10s into the 1990s, and as they grew into more of a communications service than a timesharing service, they eventually started using the term "user ID" (UID) instead of PPN, but the format remained the same, and when they connected to internet email, a user's PPN became their email address simply by changing the comma to a dot to get 71234.4321@compuserve.com.

Simply because DEC used octal representation of binary values, where IBM (and later micros) used hex. The PDP-10 used an 18 bit address and half word as smalest computational unit (the machine had 36 bit words). 18 Bits can be represented as 6 octal digits. So here you are. They just followed that scheme.

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