Technostalgia

What Ever Became of…Email Without Computers?

In the heady days of the dot com boom, there were a few companies that actually had physical products for sale. One idea to exploit a very specific niche was to sell small internet devices that were made to do email and nothing else. Since the idea of using PCs for more than playing Sim City and typing book reports was still relatively new, there were some who had an aversion to opening that free AOL CD and attempting to ‘get online.’ 

If you wanted to be able to keep dear old grandma in the loop, without overwhelming her with the seedier sides of the internet, you could invest in one of several handy email machines. Either push the big ‘Get Email’ button, or keep it hooked up to your phone line and let it automatically update! image

Back around the turn of the century, some friends and I took a few trips down to South Texas fishing, and we would stay with one fellow’s great uncle. He would heckle my buddy’s dad about spending time fiddling with his computer, which he seemed to regard as quite the flighty pursuit.

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The great uncle, being retired down in South Texas, spent a fair part of the day sitting around drinking and watching TV. He had a giant set of big wireless headphones so he could hear without blowing out the TV’s speakers.

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Those targeted infomercials must really work, because one day he proudly unveiled his newest prized position, an emailer. It quite likely was a MailStation similar to the ones pictured, but whatever type it was, he was positively giddy over it. He would unplug the phone and plug it to the machine, then have you watch as he would show you the latest ‘Hey, you have email now!’ note he had just received.

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Despite the disappearance of MailStation and Earthlink, it seems that the Landel Telecom MailBug is still around. There are also a few different services that will print email through a printer or a fax machine, but have no send capabilities. Additionally, there is the Peek wireless device, although it has moved away from the limited functionality of only email.

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Since phones have become small computers, and iPads can wipe you after a poop do everything, is there any place for a techno-phobe niche device that only sends and receives email? The ‘Easiest Way to E-mail’ was portable, simple, convient, comforable, and Smart!–so what ever happened to email without computers?

Image sources, in order of appearance: landel.com, thepcmuseum.net, allthereviews.compcliquidations.com, the-gadgeteer.net, landel.com again, mycoupons.com, and clearaudiovideo.com.

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