Gimme That Old-Time Email

Sunni's picture

It may be silly, looking back fondly on the days when I had to remember an eddress like “” or worse in order to send someone an email at a speed that was measured by baudrate ... and via a modem that one had to place the phone receiver on ... but in some ways I do. If I mistyped the eddress, or the server was down, or there was a problem of any kind in sending or receiving the email, I got a big ol’ BOUNCE message in return. If I didn’t get one, I knew my email had gone through.

These days, I send out email and wonder ... will it get wrongly trapped in a spam filter? Will it not get through because of blacklisting, because my domain has been forged in spamming? Or because I specifically am not on the recipient’s whitelist? Or do the various factions of the internet necessary to get the packets from point A to point B not speak to each other often or reliably any more? Or did the recipient receive my email, but is too busy/behind and has let it languish, forgotten? Or does the recipient just not want to talk to me?

Granted, not all of those questions would be answered under the old system ... but a lot of the guesswork and frustration wouldn’t exist.

What can I say? I am a confirmed internet dinosaur. Lynx and Pine and Archie and Gopher have different primary connotations for me than they do for most people ... Meantime, I’m tired of not knowing whether my email is getting through or not.

I Promise

I know nothing of those times of which you speak, having come late to cyberspace. However, I promise that if you ever email me, you will get some kind of response to let you know I got it. Especially if you ask me to let you know that I got the email.

Let me guess ...

You also think of different things than I when the words Slaughter, Tesla, and Poison come up too, right? ;-)

More seriously, thanks, Kent. I don’t like to ask for confirmation, because it presumes on the recipient’s time, but maybe that’s what I’ll need to start doing when it’s time-sensitive or important.

Return receipt

My email has a feature that allows me to request a return receipt. The one who gets the email doesn't have to send it, but they usually do. Cuts down on the wondering and may set up a mild guilt trip in the procrastinators. LOL I seldom have to wait long for answers! :)

Getting the mail through...

I'm surprised you get many return receipts Mama - I know that one of the first suggestions that most computer security folks make is to shut off any automatic receipt function, and to almost NEVER send one unless it is to a person you know really well... The reason is that spammers and other such evil folks have been known to use the receipt function to get valid e-mail addresses - I.e send out a bunch of mail to a server with return receipt requests - the ones that send back a response are good.

The ideal response to a spammer is NOTHING (unless you can trace down his home machine, in which case a friend of mine liked to send self-extracting ZIP files with the complete works of Tolstoy and Dostievski...) Sending an email receipt is an invitation for more spam...

However I do tend to respond to e-mail that has significant content (i.e. more than just "thanks for your mail...") if it looks like a response is needed / desired.

IOW, it isn't "wrong" to send receipts, but it is best to not do it automatically, and failure to get a receipt does NOT mean your message wasn't delivered...


Bloody brilliant!

The ideal response to a spammer is NOTHING (unless you can trace down his home machine, in which case a friend of mine liked to send self-extracting ZIP files with the complete works of Tolstoy and Dostievski...)

I love it! O’course, I’d enjoy having such a collection ... but not uninvited, on my hard drive.

Yeah, I know.

My preferred email client can handle receipts too, but I dislike them intensely—it’s software snoopiness, and as ART already said, automatic receipts give validated eddresses to spammers.

Not easy to please, am I? I know ...

No "automatics!"

My actual use of "return receipts" is very low, and never automatic. I wouldn't return one unless I knew the person requesting it - and assume those few I request are probably the same. I get lots of requests in feedback email, but never send them either.

Are there risks? Sure... same as anything else in life. :)

Baud Rates?!

Ha! _I_ go back to teletype days; 50-75 words per minute. Then we got backbone circuits at 2400 baud; we called that "high speed data," That would be "broadband" to the children here.

Shall we whip out ...

... our old computer punch cards and have a duel? ;-)

Actually, if I had my old punch cards I might remember more Unix than I currently do ... and from what I recall of my grad school daze, we were “taught” a text editor that sounds remarkably like emacs (steep learning curve, not for the faint of heart). I despised it, and as I recall, got around it somehow. JCL? Nah ... couldn’t be; but I can’t remember what I did use.

Guess that means it’s time for my Geritol and a nap.



Cobol on an HP 21-MX, with a Teletype Corp ASR-35 for IO, and paper tape for permanent storage. I kid you not, no CRTs: all paper.

And lots of keypunch in the Air Farce to run on a... Univac 1050, I seem to recall it being, fortunately with CRT terminals. Later replaced with an 1100/60 and floppies. I showed an 8" floppy to a kid I worked with a while back; I had a heck of a time convincing him it wasn't a novelty gag item.

No contest.

You win easily, Bear. I remember seeing paper tape, but never used it; and some of your names/numbers are vaguely familiar, at best.

But I knew I couldn’t top you. (Can you imagine showing that kid a mag tape? I recall storing data that way, too.)

You might be surprised

... at how much mag tape is still used. A lot of old telephone switches still use tape for call data and configuration storage. I worked on a DMS-500 that was installed around 1996 that used mag tape reels.

I was once shown (but did not use) an ancient wire recorder mass storage system, still in service. You wouldn't believe what it was hooked up to.

BITNET! How we used to dream

BITNET! How we used to dream of BITNET! Why, when I was a lad, we had to remember own own paths to the internet. My first internet-reachable email address was something like this:


Yes, the academic elites had BITNET and @-routing for internet email. The rest of poor saps had to rely on the UUCP network. Spooling up email and usenet postings... waiting for the times of day when long-distance calling was cheaper, and hop by painful hop forwarding messages along toward the internet core.

And we didn't have Pine, we had Elm... or mailx! Archie? Oh yes, that thing that tried to replace perfectly-functional thousand-page listings of FTP sites...

Curmudgeonry indeed :)

Can’t see the internet for all the trees!

I forgot about Elm ... and several other oldies I played with back in the day. I recall, after finishing grad school, needing to do some kind of alchemy on my PC at home to connect to the internet; and being very frustrated because I couldn’t remember all the interesting places I’d visited and to which I wanted to return. This was back in the Days of DOS, so no browsers and bookmarks, of course.

Thanks for the stroll down Curmudgeonry Lane, gents! (Oh, and welcome, Mike—that’s a really neat favicon you have on your site.)


Thanks, Sunni, and same to you, as I've seen you drop a comment in at my place as well.

What I remember most from this time period we're talking about here is that getting an email was sort of a momentous event. Like, WOW, this came from someone at some computer far far away that I've never met! How neat! Nothing like today where 300 daily spams get auto-filtered into the bin, and every other message is "update your resume for your prior career today!" or "Someone you went to middle school with and promptly forgot about wants to be your friend on Facebook!".

I'm trying to remember where the favicon came from, actually. I know that I snagged the black flag graphic from some anarchism site, then uploaded it to some sort of online favicon creator. A few touch-ups to fix the flag pole and voila! But the details escape me...