In rapid-fire succession, I recently received the following requests:
Barbara and I had just decided that, from now on, Internet e-mail is to be our preferred method of “machine” communication with family and friends. We both have dozens of “out-of-towners” with whom regular contact is crucial. Arizona is on Pacific Daylight Time for half the year, and on Mountain Standard Time during the other half, which is confusing to most of our callers: “What time is it there now, anyway? I can never remember whether you are the same as California or Colorado!” Because Barbara and I both work from home, we consider ourselves available most of the time, seven days per week. One or the other of us is usually home 20-22 hours every day, on average.
I have no interest in receiving telephone calls while I’m online. Neither do I particularly wish to check an answering machine or voice mail service several time every day. Each of us, Barbara and I, cheerfully speaks on the phone whenever it rings, whether for personal or business purposes. (I accept that if we still had children at home, or really needed a second business phone/fax line, we would certainly install it.)
E-mail, in comparison, is today’s great equal-opportunity method of
communicating serious and frivolous facts and opinions, with maximum
convenience and efficiency. You write me from anywhere in the world when the time is suited to your schedule, and I read and reply, quickly, at my earliest opportunity. John Rizzo of MacUser agrees. In the August, 1997 issue he writes: “Whether you like it or not, e-mail is fast replacing the telephone as America’s most indispensable communications tool.” Well stated, J. R.
I currently have more than 300 correspondents in my e-mail address book, with one-third of whom I send and receive regular or irregular brief or lengthy messages. I check my primary e-mail account several times daily, and typically receive or send a total of 30 – 50 messages each day, to friends, acquaintances, and family members in a dozen different time zones.
For years I have been scolded with “You need an answering machine in your business, John, and I’m sure you and Barbara will be glad you have it so you don’t miss personal calls, too.” The percentages favor us being home more often than not, and we enthusiastically welcome our personal or business callers, and quickly dismiss the solicitations.
Which e-mail service is best, now that we are on record as being dedicated e-mailers? My wife prefers America Online (AOL) and I prefer FirstClass (on TMUG, or Tucson Macintosh Users Group).
Barbara is not psychologically invested in the computer culture. She uses our Mac for personal and creative writing, and for e-mail. Occasionally she asks me to show her a specific site on the World Wide Web (WWW), which she has heard or read about, or requests that I do a Web search on a particular topic. Barbara does not embrace technology easily, and she is satisfied with AOL as her e-mail client. She averages a total of 20 messages per week, including both incoming and outgoing.
Why am I using FirstClass as my primary e-mail client software, and not
Eudora, or Claris e-mailer? I won’t pretend to be an expert on Eudora, even though I am familiar with it. I have been a faithful user of e-mailer for a year, and I’m still only lukewarm on it. My reasons for rejecting both of these outstanding full-service e-mail programs has nothing to do with comparing one to the other. Quite simply, the primary factor is speed.
I just timed myself. It takes me less than a minute to log into FirstClass on
TMUG, check my mail, and save several messages to my hard drive. In an additional minute I can easily respond to a few of the “quickies” I routinely receive, and then delete them from my e-mail box on the TMUG server. All the above can be done totally from the keyboard, in “real time,” using FirstClass keystroke commands.
In contrast, it takes several minutes to log into my ISP (Internet Service
Provider), then have e-mailer retrieve messages from my Internet POP e-mail accounts. I need to utilize a combination of keyboard and mouse actions to process my incoming and outgoing messages, at a relative snail’s pace compared to performing a similar sequence in FirstClass. Eudora is somewhat quicker, and offers its own advantages, although I still need to be logged into my ISP.
When I first became active online, I was satisfied with having AOL for e-mail, using a 2400 bps modem, due to the novelty of the experience. Soon I switched to Aztec, an Arizona freenet, which is entirely a blinding-fast text-based Unix network, with all menus and commands driven from the keyboard. I currently receive very little e-mail on my AOL account.
Upon moving from Phoenix to Tucson in 1995, I joined TMUG, and realized that the graphical experience of FirstClass software is far superior to that of Aztec. My Aztec e-mail now auto-forwards to TMUG, and I log into Aztec every few weeks for access to libraries throughout Arizona.
When I became a subscriber to an ISP, I was required to use e-mailer, since at the time it was the only e-mail software featuring the ability to access accounts from multiple remote servers. Eudora Pro now has that feature, which possibly gives Eudora the edge over e-mailer 2.0. I appreciated what e-mailer did, but I was frustrated by its sluggish performance. (For detailed commentary on e-mailer and Eudora, go to www.tidbits.com, and use the Search feature.)
I am evaluating two free WWW-based e-mail services, Hotmail
(www.hotmail.com) and Mailcity (www.mailcity.com). Hotmail is more mature, but Mailcity is almost identical in real-life usage. I can recommend either one if you need free Web-based e-mail for any reason, but be prepared for s-l-o-w response time, unless you have a very fast Internet connection and a current PowerPC Mac/clone. I plan to do a comprehensive evaluation of Hotmail and Mailcity in a future issue of My Mac.
That brings me back to FirstClass. TMUG grabs incoming messages every hour on the half hour from the Internet, and transmits my outgoing Internet e-mail at the same time. The frequency is certainly sufficient for me. If I didn’t have TMUG available, I expect I would now graduate to the latest Eudora Pro or e-mailer.
In order to participate in the e-mail revolution, a person has to have a
computer, a modem, and some sort of access to free or pay e-mail. For most users, this access comes from their online service or ISP. Freenets, bulletin board systems, and free-mail services are an almost invisible minority.
Most of the people with whom I correspond on a regular basis have e-mail available from their homes. Several close friends have neither computer nor modem, but all of these friends have answering machines. I can call them and leave a message; when they call back they usually reach me or call again in a couple of hours. I expect one day soon most of these computer-less people will have e-mail accounts; the few renegades and I will remain in contact, as we have been for decades, via telephone and snail mail.
So when you feel the urge to get in touch with Barbara or me, send us an
e-mail message, please. We will answer quickly, if we are at home. If you need to speak to us on the telephone, mention it in your e-mail letter, and we’ll call you back. We can chat on our nickel. How about that!
John Nemerovski (firstname.lastname@example.org)