June 16, 2012

checking email

Travel back in time with me to the fall of 1992. A college freshman with an hour between her two morning classes rushes back to her dorm room with one hope in mind: that her roommate will not be using the phone.

She doesn’t need to make a call.

She needs the line free for her modem.

If it is, she can boot up her PC, connect to the school’s network, open Pine (text-based email client, anyone?), and see if one of the five people she knows with an email account has sent her a message. It’s an active process, and not always a quick one. Setting up her own email account was the same way. She had to fill out a paper form, which included a space for divulging what her password would be, and wait a day or so before the account was activated. Yet all of it is fun and makes her feel a bit special, and not just because the emails she receives are sometimes from a cute boy.

Back to today, people still talk about checking their email, but is that phrase accurate anymore? Emails are pushed to mobile devices, new mail notifications pop up on computers from open, graphically-based applications, and we can find Internet access all over the place. So our decision is not so much whether we’ll make the effort to check or not check our email as it is whether we’ll read what technology has served up for us or not.

Know what I mean, jellybean?

P.S. Mr. O’Donnell, this is not the email-related post inspired by your own. That one is up next. 

1 comment:

Jason/Seamus said...

I love this post as well... I recall this exact same behaviour (as well as yelling at my parents for picking up the hone during the tail end of a 1 hour, 2 megabyte download).
Still, I DO check email, but not in the same way. My phone doesn't push notifications to me, so I have to actively check when out and about. When at home and working, I get so many push notices, I have to play catch up, which means ignoring the piling of red numbers until I can focus on that particular application. So, again, it is an active checking based on passive notices that there's something there to read.