The Corner

Giving Up E-Mail

Here’s a question for you: Who was the first person in human history to

give up e-mail? Don Knuth seems to be a pretty good candidate. According

to his website (yes, he has a website though not an e-mail

address–go figure) he has had no e-mail address since January 1, 1990,

having previously lived by e-mail for 15 years. How many Americans had even

HEARD of e-mail in January 1990?

I mention this because I am contemplating it myself. My e-mail is totally

out of control, I admit it. Trawling through my inbox this morning, I

discovered an invitation to appear on a radio show last week, that had

somehow got lost in the pile. It would be nice to think I have so many

opportunities to publicize myself that I could afford to ignore the odd

radio slot, but this is very far from being the case. I need this stuff.

Yet there it is, lost in the pile. I can’t even say “pile of dross,”

either–most of the stuff it got lost among is matter that I really should

deal with. At some point in the last few weeks, though, it all got out of

control. Now when I look at my inbox I am overcome by the wellnigh

irresistible urge to go upstairs and pull the bed-covers over my head.

All of which is by way of saying that if I owe you an e-mail, it may be a

while coming.

[NB: Knuth also favors dropping the hyphen in “e-mail.” I remember doing

this myself about 5 yrs ago… but then getting to think that it just didn’t

LOOK right, and re-instating the hyphen. Knuth is right on logic–as he

darn well should be, having written the ultimate multi-volume text on

computer programming–but wrong on esthetics.]