Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nickel & Diming

E-Mail, thinking about it, and how it used to be a communications system. In the old days, when dinosaurs still roamed freely, I used to communicate with my colleagues using CompuServe. My PC used DOS (Disk Operating System for the uninitiated) and I relied on WordPerfect and Lotus 123. I only had a few colleagues using PCs to communicate, most still insisting on that gadget called the telephone—remember them? I’m not certain, but I think my telephone had by then graduated from a rotary dial to push buttons.  It was 1986, and the world was young. There was no “E-Mail” and the closest anyone came to a little portable phone was called a “bag-phone”.

Then the Internet came into its own, and stuff called E-Mail became commonplace. In the beginning, E-Mail was mainly a communications system among the computer-literati.  Then gradually, as more folks acquired PCs, they too joined the E-Mail revolution. They still used that telephone thingie of course, since E-Mail was still not reliably in use by enough folks.

Using the PC to gain access to big peoples’ mainframes was also a lot of fun. Having worked some with the National Institutes of Health, and being therefore at least familiar with MEDLARS, the NIH biomedical research online data base (Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System), I was thrilled when they established that wonderful system they called Grateful Med. Grateful Med made the Medline, or MEDLARS system readily available to relative novices.

And so it began, this Internet revolution, and on-line communications thrived and began to replace that telephone. When E-Mail first started (its starting point is somewhat in debate—some say the early 1970s, others the 1980s) it was of course a DOS based system (I ignore Apple, which I have been doing successfully since the Lisa came out), resembling perhaps today’s text messaging. In its early stages, I still sent and received e-mail from close colleagues. Slowly, that system grew to the point that I began sending and receiving to friends and family. At some point, I realized that the telephone had grown silent for most purposes. My E-Mail grew slowly and then rapidly, until it encompassed most of the people I knew.
At some stage, not sure when, I began receiving E-Mails from corporate entities. I would hear from Hewlett-Packard, for example, because I owned HP printers.  The system was still a closely held system.  Then, much like the telephone became a device for corporate entities to try to extract money from you, E-Mail joined that fraternity of money grubbers.

Now, I receive perhaps 50 E-Mails per day (it could be more; I have long ago stopped counting).  Of that number, I think I can count on two or three from actual people—friends and family. Now, most of this is my own doing of course. I get my news now through E-Mails. I subscribe to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Manchester Guardian, the Charlotte Observer, the BBC, the ABC (Australian), the CBC (Canadian), something called the Local News (from Germany), the Thai-India News, and now a host of Internet news outlets unrelated to formal newspapers or TV-Radio systems.

But also, I receive, and here I am not sure, dozens of E-Mails from political entities, from the White House the Democrat National headquarters, to the Al Franken, or the Kirsten Gillibrand web sites.

And since Barack Obama discovered that he could raise millions, perhaps a billion or more, by asking local folks to donate five dollars, I am now inundated with daily calls for $3-5 dollars. Everyone now relies on the E-Mail system to troll for money. I am guessing that I receive maybe 30 E-Mails per day, from entities asking for $3 to $25. It’s all quite reasonable, unless you begin adding up the totality of it all.  I’m being nickel and dimed to death. It is now to the point where I simply delete at least 50 E-Mails per day without reading them, because they always, always end with a request for money.  Apparently, everyone has decided that E-Mail solicitation is the true path to riches. Organizations whose missions I fully support have now adopted the same method (wildlife preservation organizations send me 3-5 per day, which I no longer read.

Now, the only actual friend-family communications I receive is through texting (no, I have not yet joined the Twitterati, although I have an account, unused). I have begun getting texts from corporate entities also, but few. Verizon, for example, sends me an E-Mail and a text to tell me that my Verizon bill is now available on-line.  I am counting the days until corporate world completely takes over the texting systems, rendering them completely useless.

I am thinking that, maybe we will return to the old days of telephone conversations. Is that possible, I wonder?? Maybe in this best of all possible worlds, the telephone will resume its honored place as a method whereby I can actually speak with one of my family or friends.   Wouldn’t that be nice?
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