Tuesday, June 26, 2007

E-Mail Trouble

I seem to be having trouble with my e-mail. Every time I send a note to the my newspaper it comes bouncing back to me with a cryptic message attached.

“Host or domain name not found,” it says. “Name service error. Host name does not exist.”

How very peculiar.

It seems that there is no such place as the Whitstable or Herne Bay Times. Neither the Whitstable nor the Herne Bay Times exist. These newspapers are a figment of your imagination. You are not reading a newspaper column right now. You are merely having a very bad dream.

That, at least, is what my computer appears to be telling me.

Or, looking at it another way: if the Times’ offices no longer acknowledge my messages and their computer system refuses to respond to me, maybe it’s me who doesn’t exist. Whoever it is sitting on this chair in front of this computer must be an impostor. It’s not really me at all.

My last column was not delivered by e-mail. It was delivered by hand to the Times office in Whitstable, then delivered by courier to Canterbury, and then typed by hand into the computer terminal there: the old-fashioned way.

It’s amazing how fast this technology has developed.

When I first started writing for the newspapers - just over thirteen years ago now - I would write on an old Amstrad, print it off, and then send the printed copy by post a few days before the deadline.

Occasionally I would send a fax.

There may have been internet access at the time, but only a few computer nerds had it. The web did not even exist.

These days many of us spend large portions of our spare time “surfing the net“ and most correspondence is done by e-mail..

No one sends letters any more. As a postman I know how few genuine hand-written letters actually travel by post (or by snail-mail, as the computer buffs call it): no more than one in a hundred, I would guess, and most of those are pre-printed Christmas or Birthday cards, in which only a signature and a brief message is required.

Pretty soon we will have forgotten how to write.

This is a very worrying prospect, not least when you discover how dependent we have become on the technology, and how little control we have when things go wrong.

So this is in the nature of an appeal to all of you out there who can still remember how to use a pen and paper: keep doing it!

Those handwritten letters that pass through your postman’s hands are like items of treasure these days: small reminders of humanity in a mountain of pre-printed dross.

Computers have invaded every aspect of our lives. Even our language has changed. Once upon a time memory was something that human beings had, not machines, applications were for jobs, programmes appeared on TV, cursors used bad language, webs were what spiders wove, a virus meant a week in bed and a hard drive was eight hours behind the wheel.

As for your three inch floppy, that was something best kept to yourself.

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