About Electronic Mail
Electronic Mail (Email) is a way for Internet users to communicate
with each other in a way similar to corresponding through the US
Postal Service. If you know a person's Email address, you can
send him/her an electronic "letter."
An electronic "letter" is a computer file sent from one Email
address to another using a special program that attaches an
envelope to the file. This envelope contains all the address and
return address information that is needed to complete the
An Email address is made up of two parts: (1) a userid (unique to
each person that has an account on a particular computer), and
(2) a computer address (unique to each computer that is a part of
the Internet). The userid and computer address are ordinarily
separated by the "@" symbol. The following is a typical Email
alex is the userid. People who use the same system that you do
can send you an Email message using only your standard userid.
For example, other Strauss users can send Email to alex by
sending mail to:
If another user on campus wishes to send you an Email message,
but that user uses a different computer system, e.g., EMC2, then
s/he will need to send your Email to the following address:
The vast majority of Email users do not have a computer account
at the University of Delaware. If you want to send an Email
outside the University you will need to use the
NOTE: This is true even for users outside the US. Although there
is an international code that needs to be appended to computer
addresses outside the US, i.e., .au for Australia. Computer
addresses within the US do not need an additional country
code when a user outside the US is sending mail.
Each computer address on the Internet has a unique numeric
address that, for network purposes, is usually translated into a
string of "words" separated by periods (strauss.udel.edu).
Internet addresses are hierarchical: the general form for Email
The following examples illustrate this concept:
- "Josie" reads mail on her
account at chopin, a computer
at the University of Delaware,
an educational institution.
- "Smythe" reads mail on his/her
account at chemvax, a computer
on the eng network at Syracuse
University, an educational
- "Reg3g" read his/her mail at
acadvm2, a computer at the
University of Ottawa, a
Accessing Your Email
To access your UNIX account, which gives you access to Email and
the other tools you can use on the Internet, you need to logon to
any of the following four computers (the "composers"):
Because the University's central UNIX systems are networked, it
does not matter which of the four composers you use to connect
to the system. Because each composer accesses the same files,
each UNIX user has four (actually five) addresses that can be used to reach that
Similarly, when accessing your Email messages on this system, it
does not matter which of the four composers you use and you do
not have to be consistent with your usage. You may access the
system through chopin, read your mail and file it at a particular
time, and then reaccess the system through another composer and
see the changes you had previously made!!
- copland.udel.edu (actually the address udel.edu will default to copland.udel.edu, creating five usable addresses).
With the US Postal Service, it doesn't matter what kind of
mailbox you have. You could have a PO Box, a big metal rural
route box, or even a slot in your front door. It doesn't matter
if you use the finest stationary and pens, or brown paper and
crayons. As long as your message has the proper address (and
postage :-)) your letter should get to the person for whom you
In the Internet world, it doesn't matter what kind of Email
software you have on what computer. If the Email software
understands Internet Email addresses, you can send mail to and
get mail from anyone on the Internet.
Email Uses and Benefits
There are many different ways that we can communicate with each
other so why do we need another medium for communication? Of
course, we don't need another medium for communication, just as
we didn't need the telephone before Alexander Graham Bell
invented it. How would life be now if we were not able to
communicate via the telephone? There are benefits afforded
to Email users that are not evident to users of other forms of
You may send your message at any time you desire and it will
arrive almost instantaneously, unlike campus mail, US mail, Air
mail, Surface mail, Federal Express, United Parcel Service or any
other mail carrier you care to mention. You do not have to be
concerned with minor details such as whether your recipient's
receiving mechanism (computer) is busy, unlike the telephone or
fax machine, or what time of day you send your message, unlike
the telephone (you wouldn't want to wake anybody up or have to
deal with "telephone-tag") or regular mail (make sure you catch
the last mail before the weekend). You do not need to worry
about determining what type of letterhead you have to use, or
finding your envelope and stamp, but you can still construct a
Communicating with Email is very inexpensive compared to
telephone communication. A commercial Internet provider may
charge $30 for a month's service. Compare this to your telephone
bill, especially if you regularly make international calls in the
middle of the afternoon!! Students enrolled at the
University of Delaware automatically have an Internet
account, make the most of it!
There are three reasons why Internet communication is very
- An Internet Access provider, whether it is the University
of Delaware or a commercial provider, usually leases a very
high-speed telephone line from a regional Internet
provider. Because of the amount of traffic that these
lines can handle, the Internet access provider is usually
able to lease the line at a "volume discount."
- When you send an electronic message or computer file over
the Internet, the network hardware and software allow your
message or file and other people's messages or files to
travel at the same time. That is, since more than one
message can be transmitted over the same link at the same
time, the overhead cost is dramatically reduced.
- If you call someone on the telephone and chat with her for
twelve minutes, both of your telephones and telephone lines
are tied up for those twelve minutes. However, if you
spend twelve minutes composing an Email message to someone,
your system and hers are both able to send and receive
other messages while you compose your message. Further,
when you send the message, it is delivered in seconds, it
actually "ties up the line" for a fraction of a second,
allowing the free flow of messages to continue since many
files are traveling over the network.
You don't have to concern yourself with where your recipient
lives, as long as you know his/her Email address. Sending an
Email message to the United Kingdom or Australia is as easy and
reliable as sending one to another student on campus.
An Email address is specific to a person, and not to a location.
Therefore you can send an Email message to someone knowing that
even if she is not at her place of work, or residence, she can
still get that message, assuming she has a lap-top and a modem.
This is very beneficial for business people who can send and
receive documents after working hours and on weekends.
Businesses do not need to come to a standstill outside of office
hours especially if office hours among businesses do not coincide,
an issue for global organizations. This may be true to a
certain extent for the telephone with new voice messaging
services, but is certainly not true with the fax machine or
Faxes and letters are both hard-copy documents that cannot be
manipulated. An Email message can take many forms. A recipient
can print the Email message it then becomes similar to a fax or a
letter. A recipient can download the Email message and save it
in a file for future reference, unlike a fax or a letter. Because a
recipient can download the Email message, it can be edited as needed.
This has proved very
beneficial in many areas, perhaps the most important being when
two or more people are collaborating on a document. It has also helped
tremendously as this guide was written. We were able to Email the drafts
to many Interneters throughout the world who then added their
comments and suggestions, and then Emailed them back (see
acknowledgments for a list of these Interneters.)
AVOID THE GATEKEEPER!!
A major benefit in the business world is the ability to "avoid
the gatekeeper". Have you ever tried telephoning someone, only
to be told that they are unavailable, by someone else? That was
the gatekeeper. S/he is there to determine who gets to
communicate with the boss. This is also true with a letter. It
is very rare that someone who employs a secretary actually opens
his/her own mail. The secretary will do that and then determine
whether his/her boss needs to read it. Email messages go directly
to the boss! Do you want to communicate with the gatekeeper or
the person who was originally intended to read your message!!
A second disadvantage of communicating with the gatekeeper is
that the gatekeeper becomes a link in your communication channel
and therefore increases the chances that the message will be
altered before it reaches its intended recipient. This does not
happen when the Email message is sent directly to the boss.
You decide when you want to read your Email messages, unlike
answering the telephone. You may be in deep thought writing your
final group project, or developing a yearly budget, when the
telephone rings. If you answer the telephone you will run the risk
of losing your train of thought, and therefore wasting
valuable time getting back up to speed. If you don't answer the
telephone you run many risks: someone else answers it and edits
the message for you, the caller hangs up and does not relay some
important information, or you have to return the call and pay for
Communication Processing is also important from the sender's
perspective. You can send an Email message and not worry about
intruding on the time of the recipient, knowing they will read it
when they wish. This is especially advantageous with upward
communication, communicating with someone at a higher level in the
organization. This type of communication can be intimidating
when using the telephone, that is, if the gatekeeper ever lets
you through ;-). If you find it intimidating to communicate with
someone, the chances are your message will not be very effective.
CAVEAT: Although Email does facilitate "upward communication,"
and many organizations are becoming less hierarchical,
you must be careful if you do operate within a hierarchical
organization. For example, just because you can send an Email
message to the CEO, should you? It may not be appropriate without
getting your message funneled through the regular channels.
Failure to remember your organization's communication hierarchy may upset your peers or intermediate supervisors, or the CEO herself, who may
feel threatened by such liberal access!!
Email is a very effective communication medium if you need to
send the same information to two or more people at one time. You
can create a mailing list of all the intended recipients, write
your message and send it to the mailing list's "nickname". The
simplicity of this form of mass communication is not evident in
any other communication medium. Through the Internet, one can
also subscribe to various mailing lists and receive mailings on a
regular basis on many different subjects.
The Telephone is certainly the most interactive of the
communication media. Interactivity may be seen as one of the major faults
of Email, but is
it? Email is certainly more interactive than any of the written
communication media. Although you cannot hold a conversation
through Email, you can make direct references to the Email
messages you are replying to by adding them to the Email message
you are sending; you can highlight certain parts of a note, and
cut-out the irrelevant parts. This is possible through other
written communication media, such as regular mail and fax, but is
certainly much more cumbersome and inefficient.
Filing and storing Email messages is certainly much more
efficient than filing and storing regular mail and faxes--and
environmentally friendly. Follow-up correspondence is more efficient, as
old messages can be reaccessed from the appropriate file folders and
replied to when the recipient wishes, knowing that s/he has the
correct Email address and a copy of the correspondence that can
be attached to that message.
A copy of all messages that you send via Email can be stored in
your sent-mail folder, making it much easier to track your
outbound correspondence. Many people find that stored Email
messages make an excellent journal.
The major drawback to using Email as a communication medium is
that the sender and receiver must both have Email access. All
forms of communication have this problem. You cannot make a
telephone call to someone who doesn't have a telephone, or fax a
message to someone who does not have access to a fax machine.
Email is becoming more and more an accepted means of
communication as more and more people have access to the
Internet. The Internet (and hence Email access) is growing
exponentially, and as predicted by John Naisbett, there will be
1.5 billion Internet users by the year 2001. With so many people
having access to Email, Email will become a phenomenally
powerful medium for communication.
The University of Delaware