Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"You've got mail"

Last night I exchanged emails with someone with an @aol.com address, and that made me realize I hadn't thought about America on Line (AOL) in a long time, in fact I wasn't even sure they were still around.  That's surprising considering how essential AOL used to be to me.

It's hard to imagine now but there was a time not too long ago when the only way to access the Internet was through Internet Service Providers offering dial-up service, chief among them being AOL.  (Actually, there was a time not much longer ago when there wasn't any Internet to access, but then Al Gore came along and fixed that.)   One of AOL's chief claims to fame was the email service it offered subscribers, and the nicest feature of that was the ubiquitous "you've got mail" sound that chimed every time a new message arrived.  That sound became an iconic symbol of the era - there was even a movie (a romantic comedy, I think) based on the "you've got mail" sound. It was really very addictive - until it became obnoxious. I think that's about when AOL's fortunes tanked and they started the long slide into Internet oblivion, made obsolete by high speed Internet access available from the local cable provider and even the telephone company (talk about irony...)  Dial-up modems just couldn't keep up (literally) and AOL's dominance as an ISP faded into history. Obsolescence happens fast in the digital age.

I suppose it's possible, but not very likely, that if I were childless I might never have switched to a high-speed Internet Provider - I was actually content with my dial-up experience but of course it was totally inadequate for the things my sons wanted to do on the computer.  Their need for speed was, understandably, much greater than mine and so I made the call to the cable company and had them install the service that I still use today (although they have upgraded the speed of the connection a few times). 

Technology has, of course, continued to advance and now as I sit here typing on my desk top computer, connected to the Internet by cable, my sons are somewhere else (they can be anywhere, apparently) connected to the Internet via their smart phones communicating at speeds that far outstrip what my connection is capable of.  And truth be told, I have been considering changing the way I access the Internet, too - the question is, should I go to 3G/4G wireless through Verizon, or should I go back to AOL?  I'll have to ponder that.

I wonder if that "you've got mail" chime is still in use?  That could be the deciding factor for me.

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