In the early 1990s, during the glory days of UNIX culture, being able to score a telnet window, a shell account on a UNIX server, was a big deal.
Back then, a combination of borrowed credentials, academic accounts, and commercial providers hosted the UNIX shell accounts, that provided finger and talk and FTP and pine mail and usenet readers and IRC.
UNIX culture, what remains of it, has been subsumed into the Linux server culture, which itself is being eaten by cloud and devops. But one thing that remains, for those who want it: the shell. I remember deploying a Linux server 20 years ago — it was non-trivial and required the re-purposing of Wintel metal. That choice remains (a tiny netbook running Linux is like having a tiny mainframe with its own UPS and console), but other choices, like $5 per month cloud servers and VMWare Player guest instances and raspberry pi servers make the shell available to anyone who wants it.
We do not realize just how lucky we are.