Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Medium Is My Message

I got my first e-mail account in 1986. It was MCI Mail, still fondly remembered by many geeks. As I recall, I had a three-digit address, which went along nicely with my Kaypro 2x, a "luggable" computer (its keyboard attached to the main unit and had a handle on it; it weighed about 40 pounds) that booted up with two 5.5-inch floppy disks and had a 9-inch screen.

It also had a 300-baud internal modem, excruciatingly slow by today's standards, but fast enough for me to send articles to editors (a thousand words took at least half an hour) and way more advanced than having to put the phone handset into an acoustic coupler.

Very few people had e-mail addresses then, but I loved the whistling sound of dial-up cyberspace, which seemed magical. Eventually I switched to Compuserve, then to America Online (by then the Kaypro was long gone, replaced by a Sanyo laptop and then a PowerBook 160). Now, I have multiple e-mail accounts for different purposes.

So I've been obsessed with e-mail for more than 20 years. I got my first Blackberry in 2000, which just made it easier to send messages, and I have to say that short of face-to-face conversation e-mail has become by far my preferred means of communication.

I just don't love phone calls and never have (though it can be nice to hear someone's voice); they're disruptive, and if you miss someone, it's a waste of time to go back and forth with voice mail. Though I speak well, I'm much more comfortable writing, and e-mail means that I can compose my thoughts, send them and then move on, asynchronously.

Instant messaging has its charms, but I'm often hampered by my need to write good sentences. However, I do enjoy the brevity of a choice text-message.

Which is why I'm now gingerly trying out Twitter, which limits messages to 140 characters. And fooling around with the idea of Twitter-ku, with the classic 5-7-5 structure. If I like how it's going, I'll link to it from here so you can "follow" me. And that, really, is all I've ever wanted.

(Kaypro 2X photo from Erik Klein's Vintage Computers. If you're into computer nostalgia, you should also visit the DigiBarn Computer Museum.)

1 comment:

  1. I signed up (I think I did at least the basic stuff) for Twitter the other day, and was wondering with whom I will "twitter." Somehow "twittering" sounds a lot more titillating and fun than "googling" someone.