"MCI Mail--The nation's new postal system"

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nisiprius
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"MCI Mail--The nation's new postal system"

Postby nisiprius » Thu Aug 20, 2009 5:46 am

Image

File this under "Wasn't the future wonderful?" I'd forgotten all about MCI Mail until I ran across this while cleaning out some old boxes. This happens to be a letter I wrote to our kids when they were about ten years old and staying with their grandparents. I left the letter intact because I like the period references. ("Sticker order"--remember the sticker craze? Pre-teen girls bought expensive stickers of teddy bears, hearts, and rainbows, literally by the yard).

MCI was a name to conjure with, being one of the first if not the first independent long-distance telephone services to emerge, to compete with AT&T Long Lines.

Now, what was "MCI Mail, The nation's new postal system?"

It was a bridge between email and postal mail. You originated your letter online, and it was printed and mailed from a location close to your recipient and thus would arrive quickly.

The typeface and paper tell me that MCI hoped businesses would use it. I wonder how successful it really was? The printing technology looks like laser, but notice that this is not Adobe "Courier". It is a very, very good imitation of electric-typewriter typing. This was important at the time. People would not have reacted well to a font like Times Roman, because it would be perceived as a printed form letter.

Of course it was printed on bond paper, with a watermark. That was expected for ordinary business correspondence. (Why? In part because business correspondence was supposed to be free from typos and visible erasures. It took quality paper, a special gritty pizza-cutter-shaped eraser, and good secretarial-school technique to make an invisible erasure).

Image

Remember, this was 1984.

--Even then the USPS sent all first-class mail by air, but it took longer than it does now.

--Overnight delivery was available from "Federal Express" but I believe it was fabulously expensive, and not used casually even by businesses. I'm not sure it was even available in e.g. a remote rural location like the destination of this letter.

--You couldn't just assume your recipient had a personal computer. Home computers were not rare, but certainly not ubiquitous. They costing around $3,000, equivalent to $6,000 today.

--Even if they had a computer, you couldn't just assume they had a modem. A 1200-bps modem costing around $500. Data communications was still a little arcane. If a home computer was a status symbol, a modem was more like a ham-radio setup.

--If they did have a modem, they probably had it in order to link point-to-point with their work or business computer; you couldn't just assume they had a personal email account.

--Even if both you and they had a personal email account, you were probably on different services (CompuServe, Prodigy, Delphi, BIX, and, yes, AOL). Email was primarily used between subscribers to the same service. You might be able to send email across services via the Internet, but it typically was "experimental" and involved special procedures and extra steps, was often slow (ten hours) and unreliable (with no notification to you if delivery was unsuccessful).
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

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stratton
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Re: "MCI Mail--The nation's new postal system"

Postby stratton » Fri Aug 21, 2009 12:23 am

nisiprius wrote:--You couldn't just assume your recipient had a personal computer. Home computers were not rare, but certainly not ubiquitous. They costing around $3,000, equivalent to $6,000 today.

I was running an IBM PC lab at a university in 1984. $2500 got you two floppies. $4000 got you a 10 megabyte HD. Add in an HP Laserjet for another $1800.

Wordperfect DOS was $450 discounted. Lotus 123 was ~$350. IBM Displaywrite was $400. DBase III was $500.

Paul

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Postby gkaplan » Fri Aug 21, 2009 7:51 am

I have a question. Why do some images that posters insert show up on my screen with a small square with a red "x" in the middle?

Thanks.
Gordon

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Kenkat
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Postby Kenkat » Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:13 am

gkaplan wrote:I have a question. Why do some images that posters insert show up on my screen with a small square with a red "x" in the middle?

Thanks.


Something is blocking them - a content filter or firewall. Lots of businesses have these if you are accessing from a work computer. Or a content filter such as Parental Control software. These are the most likely ones. Of course the other reason is because the image link is bad, but I am assuming that you can't see the above image (I can).

Ken

gkaplan
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Postby gkaplan » Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:18 am

Okay. I'm at work right now, so that could be part of the reason; however, I'm pretty sure that this also shows up on my home computer.
Gordon

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mas
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Postby mas » Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:34 am


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nisiprius
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Postby nisiprius » Fri Aug 21, 2009 9:09 pm

gkaplan wrote:I have a question. Why do some images that posters insert show up on my screen with a small square with a red "x" in the middle?
I use a free image hosting service named ImageShack. It's flaky. Sometimes it's down. When it's down, your browser can't retrieve the image and displays the small "X".
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

diasurfer
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Postby diasurfer » Fri Aug 21, 2009 9:28 pm

I certainly remember the Texas Rangers being in last place around that time. They were horrible. They spent a good chunk of my youth in last place. Only franchise to never win a playoff series. grrrr.

gkaplan
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Postby gkaplan » Sat Aug 22, 2009 6:25 pm

I'm on my home computer and can see the image.
Gordon


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