In the early 1980s a cable pioneer named William von Meister and the company, CVC, were looking for a way to use modem transmission technology, they had tried using it to transmit music, but legal issues caused cable providers to pull the plug. So CVC was stuck with a delivery service and nothing to deliver. So they converted the system to transmit video games for the Atari 2600. This allowed users to call up a system and, for a fee, download games to their GameLine modules. The game would typically work for 5-10 plays, after which the user would have to connect to GameLine again and pay for another download.
The GameLine device looked like an oversized silver Atari cartridge with a phone jack on the side. The games on GameLine were all from third-party gamemakers, the largest of which was the underrated Imagic.
CVC and GameLine did not survive the Video Game Crash of 1983, but members of the company would eventually go on to found Quantum Link, which eventually became AOL. It all goes back to the VCS folks :)
Fan of Atari 2600? Why not check out the Retroist Atari 2600 podcast…