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YouTube / Computer Chronicles
YouTube / Computer Chronicles

How to Use Email (in 1997)

YouTube / Computer Chronicles
YouTube / Computer Chronicles

Here's an in-depth look at email from 1997. The episode of Computer Chronicles features a "universal inbox" app (a $50 email client that can combine multiple email accounts into one interface -- brand new!), Hotmail (then stylized "HoTMaiL"), the use of email in political campaigns (bland but prescient), JFAX (so you can easily get your faxes in your email), email penpals, Eudora, and more. You'll note that pretty much every segment talks about integrating fax into email. Yes, fax technology was a huge deal in 1997.

My favorite part of this episode is the then-revolutionary concept that you could access email (specifically Hotmail) via a web browser. "Even attachments show up!" says Sabeer Bhatia, explaining the service. The service allowed up to 200k of attachments per email, but suggested that in the future "files of a larger size" could be attached. Second favorite is the exceptionally long wait as the JFAX program downloads GSM-encoded voicemail files via a POP connection. It's excruciating watching the hosts wait, but boy, I spent a lot of time waiting for my email in 1997.

Keep an eye out for "How to Defeat a Chain Letter" and "Don't Spread that Hoax!" around 21:00. I'll need to forward that to everybody I know.

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History
The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

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holidays
The Plugin That Keeps the Internet From Spoiling Santa Claus
iStock
iStock

During simpler times, the biggest threat to a child's belief in Santa was usually older siblings or big-mouthed classmates. Today, kids have access to an entire world wide web, full of potentially Santa-spoiling content. Luckily, there's a plugin that helps parents maintain their kids’ innocence through the holidays.

Created by the virtual private network provider Hide My Ass (HMA), the free software analyzes web activity for any information that might threaten to “bring a child’s belief in Santa crashing down.” In place of the problematic content, the plugin brings up an image of the jolly man himself. Typing the phrase “Santa is not real” into Google, for example, will instead take you to a web page showing nothing but a soft-focused St. Nick pointing into the camera and staring at you with judgmental eyes. The plugin is also designed to work for social media communications, internet ads, and articles like this one.


Hide My Ass

According to a survey of 2036 parents by HMA, one in eight children in the U.S. have their belief in Santa ruined online. Whether it's because of the internet or other related factors, the age that children stop believing in Santa is lower than ever.

The average age that current parents lost their faith in Santa Claus was 8.7 years old, and for today’s kids it’s 7.25 years. Concerned parents can download the plugin for Chrome here, though it may not be enough to hide every type of Santa spoiler: Of the parents who blamed the internet, 26 percent of them reported kids snooping over their shoulder as they shopped for gifts online.

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