Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Five Digits

677 words

The story of e-mail is a long one. I may have had my very first use of e-mail in the early 1990s or even the late 1980s. My dad was abroad and we had to urgenty send something to him. This involved going to some technical support guy who helped my mum and me deal with some terminal and the mail command.

I think I got my first proper mail account in 1994 during an internship. That account stayed with me for ages. Back then e-mail was quite different and special. And, most importantly, it was much less useful because the vast majority of people didn’t have e-mail addresses to begin with.

Since then I have many e-mail addresses and accounts along with numerous but not very well understood forwarding rules to make sure as much as possible is forwarded all the way to me. Once my friend Jimmy tried to discover all my stale e-mail addresses and send a message to each one. A surprising number of messages arrived. I still keep as many of my old addresses in my address book just to see my icon with them when viewing them in mail.

A dirty little secret about my e-mail usage is that all the forwarding ends up at a single account. Kind of ruins the elaborate use of distinct addresses in private and in public. But it’s just simpler and quicker. Everything in one place with just one connection that absolutely has to work.

In my history of e-mail I’ve also changed mail applications a number of times. Starting with mail at the very beginning and then probably using some graphical Sun mail application. When I got mail on the Mac, I started with Eudora but switched to Cyberdog as soon as it was available. Cyberdog was very cool. And in its second revision it absolutely rocked. It remains my favourite e-mail application to date.

Cyberdog icon in the Dock But Cyberdog died – you can still run it in Classic these days, even though OpenDoc stopped being supported ages ago, but it’s almost a decade old which you can tell despite its general brilliance. (Let’s just say I could go on for ages on how Cyberdog was simple and powerful, not perfect but visionary in a way and so on – much unlike most of the software we get to use these days.) So I moved on once OS X came – after a year of using pine on university systems when not having a computer of my own. First I switched to PowerMail which was nice, simple and fast and then to Apple’s Mail in X.2 when it finally looked like it’s good enough. My requirements aren’t too high.

The most dangerous part of all those e-mail moves was the transferring of all my old e-mail into the new client. While every e-mailing application comes with extensive import features, export features usually aren’t that great and mailbox files may corrupt over time. So those moves can fix things but they can also cost you some of your messages. While I remember losing some messages in the last decades, due to bad imports (which may have killed some messages or broken the dates of others) and due to having to use web mail at times, I think my e-mail archive is in quite a good shape.

And today I entered the era of having a five digit number of e-mails in my outbox – with the 10000th message I sent, just as the first, going to my dad. An average of roughly three messages a day for the past ten years. Quite a number if you think about it. I would never have written that many letters or postcards.

I am tempted to create a graph of my sent e-mails on a temporal axis. And while this shouldn’t be too hard, I didn’t manage to do it. What would be the best strategy for that? AppleScript and Spotlight failed me so far in the frame of a reasonable effort. So what’s the two line shell script to do the job?

Outbox count... so who needs to download the patch with the old-style toolbar icons again?

March 25, 2006, 0:24

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