E-mail is electronic mail; it is one of the features of the Internet. Email works through the Internet protocols that are followed. You must have an Internet Service Provider (ISP) who gives you access to an email account. The ISP stores any incoming messages for you until you log into your account and provide the password for access. Mail does not automatically get sent to your computer; you need to be aggressive in checking for it. You need to pay for an ISP, just like you pay for a company to provide you with long distance phone service, unless you are using one of the free email services available through the web. The free service providers will display advertisements; services that you pay for generally do not. You can get free email accounts at:

Yahoo. Click on Yahoo!Mail, and then click "Sign me up" and follow directions.

Hotmail. Click "Sign up here."

Gaggle.Net is a free student email system for schools. The student email accounts are similar to those in Hotmail. The difference is that these accounts can be monitored and controlled by the school. The messages are automatically monitored for inappropriate language and the students can be restricted as to whom they can communicate with. The teacher can go in at any time and review all of the student messages. Students can use the email accounts from any computer; in the classroom, the library or at home. Any school or district that wants to sign up can go to FTC's website. The service is 100% free for students and schools.

E-mail involves hardware and software at both the sending and receiving end of messages. You (and the recipient at the other end) need a computer, a connection to an ISP, and a modem or network that allows you to access your service provider. A modem allows two computers to communicate with each other by changing the digital information from the computer into analog information (called modulate). The modem at the other end does the reverse: it takes the analog information and changes it back into digital information (called demodulate). You will need to use some type of telecommunications software, such as Eudora, telnet, Outlook Express, Netscape, Internet Explorer, in order to make your modem useable with your computer. By the way, if you only have one phone line coming into your house or classroom, using the modem will cause a busy signal if someone is trying to contact you (unless you have call waiting, which can terminate your modem signal unless you disable call waiting prior to connecting to your ISP).

There are several advantageous features of e-mail. One is the speed of transmission of e-mail messages. Regardless of how far the message has to travel to get to its destination, the message will arrive there very quickly. It is much quicker than the postal service, and much more reliable. Another advantage of e-mail is that it is inexpensive. Once you have paid for your service provider, it does not cost you any more money to send a message to someone, regardless of where the message is being sent. Another feature of e-mail is that people can respond to messages when it is convenient for them to do so. Since people do not need to respond instantly, as they would in person or even on the phone, they have time to compose their thoughts. Also, with e-mail, the computer platform and software is transparent: there is a standard protocol used so that people will be able to send and receive messages regardless of whether they are using a Mac or Windows-based machine.

There are some disadvantages to using this technology as well. One deals with the relative anonymity of people who are e-mail users. When sending mail, others know you only by your e-mail address. Although this has benefits as well (research indicates that students who are afraid to speak out in class often respond via e-mail), it also causes some people to post/send inappropriate messages that they would not share in person. In addition, there are some claims that people are losing the ability to work together with others because the technology enables communication without physical presence. This is also a debateable issue.

E-mail addresses consist of several parts. We’ll look at mine for now:

When you send an e-mail message to someone, you will need to know his/her address. Each person with an e-mail address has a unique address and password so that no one else can get his/her mail. When a message gets sent, this is what happens. The message will go out over the Internet looking for It will notice the csustan part of my address first, which is the name of my service provider (called the domain). That piece of information routes the message to the CSU Stanislaus campus server, which is my ISP. Once it gets here, it notices the altair part of my address. Altair is a specific server here on campus. There are other servers such as Stan and Koko. So, once the message gets to campus, it is told to access altair, which is where my account resides. (Some email addresses will not have the equivalent of altair if there is just one server at that location.) Once on altair, it will look specifically for the account of lamie. The message stays on altair until I log in. The .edu at the end of my address indicates that my account is at an educational institution. Other endings are .com (commercial), .mil (military), .gov (government), .org (organization).


Listservs enable people with common interests to communicate with each other via e-mail. Listservs are electronic mailing lists in a sense, in that all members of the group receive all of the messages that are posted to the group. Each group member would receive each e-mail message. A computer program runs off of a server that distributes the mail automatically. Of course, each user would need to log into his or her e-mail account to actually read the messages that have been forwarded to them.

Listservs can be very helpful if you are interested in a specific topic. Depending upon the number of subscribers, you can access a variety of opinions about the subject. The downside is that if you subscribe to an active listserv, your mailbox can become filled very quickly with messages sent by group members. If you are using an off-line mailer such as Eudora or a browser, you can choose to not read some or all of the messages. As of January 2000, there were over 32,592 public listservs available. You can access an index of available listservs and the number of subscribers each has here. This site will also tell you the address to use when subscribing to the listserv and when posting a message.

To sign up for a listserv, you must send an e-mail message to the mailing list server and indicate that you wish to subscribe to the list. You will need to know the e-mail address of the list server, and then follow this pattern:

TO: type listserv subscribe address here

Subject/RE: leave this line blank

In the message, type SUBSCRIBE listservname yourfirstname yourlastname

Sometimes the listserv will send a message back to you telling you that you have 48 hours to respond with OK. If this is the case, be sure to do so. Once you are subscribed, you will get an electronic message welcoming you to the group. It will also contain information about how to post a message to the listserv, and what to do if you are experiencing problems. It is a good idea to keep this message as long as you are subscribed.

To be removed from a mailing list, follow the same procedure, except type "unsubscribe" in the above example. Because it is so simple to unsubscribe (and it is all done electronically, so you don’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings), you might want to test some of the listservs that interest you for a couple of weeks and then determine whether you want to continue subscribing. Keep in mind that this is a free service since it is just an electronic mailing list.


Newsgroups are like listservs in that they are groups of people interested in common subjects. The difference, however, is that in newsgroups, the messages are not sent to members individually. You need to go to the website that hosts the newsgroup and read the messages from there. An advantage is that your mailbox doesn't get flooded with messages from the group. A disadvantage is that you must be more active in soliciting the messages.

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