How to Use Email (in 1997)

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Here's an in-depth look at email from 1997. The episode of The Computer Chronicles features a "universal inbox" app (a $50 email client that can combine multiple email accounts into one interface—brand new!), Hotmail (then stylized as "HoTMaiL"), the use of email in political campaigns (bland but prescient), JFAX (so you can easily get your faxes—remember those?—send directly to your email inbox), email penpals, Eudora, and more. You'll note that pretty much every segment talks about integrating fax into email. Yes, fax technology was a huge deal in 1997.

My favorite part of this episode is the then-revolutionary concept that you could access email (specifically Hotmail) via a web browser. "Even attachments show up!" says Sabeer Bhatia, explaining the service. The service allowed up to 200k of attachments per email, but suggested that in the future "files of a larger size" could be attached. My second favorite part is the exceptionally long wait as the JFAX program downloads GSM-encoded voicemail files via a POP connection. It's excruciating watching the hosts wait, but boy, I spent a lot of time waiting for my email in 1997.

Keep an eye out for "How to Defeat a Chain Letter" and "Don't Spread that Hoax!" around 21:00. I'll need to forward that to everybody I know.