E-mail is good for messages that need urgent attention, I'll admit, but I prefer the personal touch that letters give. Handwriting, even the fatally sloppy kind, looks better to my eye than sterile ASCII text. Even with a typewriter, there are little imperfections that make each letter special. But e-mail has been simplified into carbon-copy characters that say slightly less than those more personal forms of communication. Besides, with all the "personal" e-mail that turns out to be no more than a seventeenth-generation forward written by a twelve-year-old with no wit and no spell-checker to compensate, the phrase "you've got mail" has lost its significance, but finding a friend's letter in one's mailbox is still a pleasure. The United States Postal Service delivers crap from corporations and personal messages from people. E-mail has made the sending of crap so inexpensive that even private citizens like you and I can do it easily with impunity. "Oh!" I say to myself as I check my e-mail. "My friend has taken the time to write me a personal message about the day-to-day concerns of life." On opening the letter, crankiness sets in as I realize that it's the same thing I received only minutes before from someone at the other end of the country. That seal, the name header on the e-mail, no longer says anything about the content of the message.

"Hi, my name's Tony, and I am an Internet addict." Until just recently, my computer and my e-mail program ran 24 hours a day on the dwindling chance that somebody had something worthwhile to say. I have recently realized that it was not worth my effort and devotion, as the Internet, once the domain of science and academia, has for the most part become a regular void of worthwhile material. I hereby vow to kick my habit and actually get something done. I've got a shelf of books about nine inches long that I want to finish by summer's end, and that I will do. I'm going to practice drums and marimba, and become tenor player for Iowa and marimbist for the Cavaliers. I will actually get around to writing some short stories or anything else that comes to mind. I will maintain this same level of discipline once I start college, so that I might actually graduate with the massive three-major double degree I'm currently planning. This has gone on far too long, and I'm stopping it now.

Having had it up to here with electronic communication media, I hereby vow to:

As contrary to the intent of the letter as this may seem, please forward this to whomever you believe might appreciate it. Alter it and use it for your own purposes if you have a similar problem. This letter will be available on my homepage. In fact, right now it is my homepage.

Tony Langasek
tycho@dodds.net, tony-langasek@uiowa.edu
7-7-99, "The Day the Modem Died"

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