It’s seems the world has forgotten about life before the Internet. Most of the things that are done online via the Internet today were done via centralized online services for at least 10-15 years before the Internet became widely available to the public. Or even local BBSes for that matter. Online dating? Yep. Games? Sure. File download? You bet. Of course, it was only a relatively small percentage of the world that used such services.
This ad is for a service called American People/Link. It was not one of the more popular services like CompuServe for example but it was around for awhile, offered many of the same service and had a solid user base. In this case, the services mostly consisted of online chat, e-mail and basic games (like card games). I’m not sure this ad was particularly helpful in getting new customers. The guy on the bottom looks like he is having a seizure or something. At $2.95/hour the price was pretty low for that time period though.
While American People/Link may not be the best example of an online service from the mid 1980s, there were plenty of more well known services like CompuServe, Prodigy, Quantum Link (later AOL) and Delphi among others.