If you have ever received an email from me, you know that my email address contains the domain "panix.com." What is Panix? Therein lies a tale.
Panix (short for Public Access Network Corp.) is a small, regional ISP located in New York City. According to Wikipedia, it is also the third oldest ISP in the world. They do the usual ISP stuff plus something special. They provide shell accounts. In fact, one of their slogans is "Your $HOME Away From Home." Here is a quote from their web site:
Panix has been providing shell accounts and Internet connections since 1989 —nearly twenty years! During that time we've developed a reputation for technical know-how, reliability and customer service unmatched by today's Internet "superstores". If you're looking for access to a professionally-maintained UNIX host, with the latest versions of all your favorite newsreaders, mailers, compilers and internet clients —and if you want your home and email address to be good for the rest of your life, not just until some DotCom.CEO decides that shell services aren't profitable enough to keep running— you want a Panix account.
We are all shell users ourselves, and we are shell snobs. We know a well-maintained UNIX shell is indispensable for serious programmers, web developers and net fiends. Nothing else gives you as much control over your operating environment, nothing else is as flexible. You know that, we know that, and that is why Panix will always make shell access our first service.
I'm not sure when I started using Panix, probably around 1996 and they have been my faithful partner ever since. Now since I don't live in NYC, I don't use Panix for my Internet connectivity. I'm a Verizon FiOS customer at present, but you can still use Panix even if they are not your "primary" ISP.
Panix offers an account called a "No-dial: Full Shell, Remote Login Only" which allows you to use SSH to reach your Panix shell account. From there you can access a huge array of command line programs and tools. Included with the account is web hosting, email (accessible directly from the shell with a text mail reader, or remotely via POP or IMAP), USENET access, and 500 MB of disk storage.
In addition to the services, there is the Panix community. Panix maintains their own hierarchy of USENET newsgroups for access within the Panix system. Here you will find a vibrant collection of Unix people and other colorful characters. There is also frequent interaction with the system administrators who are very experienced and knowledgeable. You can learn a lot just hanging around.
The No-dial account costs $10/month or $100/year if you prepay.
So if you want to experience what a large, multi-user Unix system (they run NetBSD) is like, give them a look