Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Still Awed by Email

Modern technology is amazing and getting more incredible by the day. The web, email, digital photography, streaming video—they're all astonishing examples of the strides we've made in communications technology. I feel fortunate to have been born at a time when television was in its infancy and long-distance phone calls weren't yet possible. Having experienced the immense changes in the short course of my lifetime, I don't take technology for granted. Rather, I'm in awe of it.

When I was young, I used to imagine that the big technological transformation during my life would involve transportation. I felt sure that by the time I was fifty, I'd be able to fly to Europe in a couple of hours, go from Boston to New York on a monorail in a similar amount of time, and drive a car resembling the flying vehicles featured on The Jetsons. Obviously, none of that has occurred. Arguably, train and airplane travel has deteriorated. Instead, the revolution has taken place in cyberspace.

Today, I experienced the way email and related technologies have transformed the world. Not that my day was particularly special. In fact, that's what makes my experience all the more astounding.

This morning, I needed some information from my brother-in-law. It so happens that he recently arrived in Rome. No problem. He has access to email, his regular cell phone works in Italy, and he's even opened a Twitter account so he can update friends and relatives about his trip. I started to write him an email, then realized it might be helpful to see if he'd tweeted recently, so I'd know if anything was new. I responded to his Twitter description of some people he'd met with a tweet of my own, then sent him my email, which concerned hotel reservations for later this spring. Not long after, I received an email reply, complete with all the information I needed about the reservations. This type of communication has become so commonplace it hardly seems worth mentioning. Yes, it is normal, but on another level, it's absolutely breathtaking.

In the course of a couple of hours today, I conversed via email with my brother-in-law in Italy and with various other people in France, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, and Florida. If I'd had to use the phone for all those conversations, no doubt I would have had to leave messages with some people. Then I would be waiting for their return calls. I hate waiting for return calls. I feel I have to have all the necessary information at my fingertips and be ready with all my questions, never knowing when I'll get the call. With email, I can say exactly what I want to say, I can proofread and edit everything I've written, and I can send it out and forget it until I receive an email reply. For me, this is communication heaven.

Don't get me wrong. I love to talk on the phone with friends and family. There's no substitute for actually hearing their voices. But I've always been a reluctant phone talker when it comes to business transactions. Even with friends, I find that email allows me to have an ongoing dialog that's simply not possible on the phone. If I see an article in a newspaper or magazine (the online versions, of course), I can send a link immediately to one or more people. And I can send quick emails with news or information that I'd never bother to phone about, but which keeps me connected to the recipients.

I could go on and on, but I'm sure you get message. If not, let me know, and I'll continue the conversation with you via email.

1 comment:

  1. I still remember when I was a kid being told, as though it were futuristic science fiction, that someday there would be video phones where you could see the person you were talking to. It seemed so highly unlikely then ... and now I talk every day on iChat with my daughter.