The Email

Written by: Tom Hilton. Posted: May 20, 2020. 



For as long as I can remember, my late mom, who passed away at 96, used to call the PC that sat on their desk “The Email.” This segment of "My Internet enabled Life" talks about "The Email".


My parents subscribed to America On Line (AOL) decades back when it was an Internet service provider. AOL always added an announcement when you first turned on your PC.  A female voice would say: “Yew have May-ail.”

Exchanging emails with old friends and her offspring was about the only thing mom ever used the PC for.  She was exceptional at keeping in touch with friends via snailmail, but as her eyesight started to fail, she could still email because she could easily make the letters bigger so she could see them to type.  Of course, it was easier for me to stay in touch from DC via email too.

Mom's generation was, for the most part, computer illiterate. Even today, most people over 60 (85% of my friends) have only had a few decades of experience with computers – if that. Not to worry. For the most part, computers do all the heavy lifting. You just need to know how to tell it what you want it to do. 


Multiple Email Accounts.

As I mentioned in my introduction to this series, I have 5 email accounts. My Gmail account is for everyday correspondence and business content like bills, banking and brokerages, and service account summaries. I have 2 Microsoft Hotmail accounts.  One is for professional mail and a second I use to administer my high school class website as well as one section of a website for the Academy of Management.  I keep a 4th email account for my consulting business and a 5th account for Junkmail.



With the exception of my Yahoo email account, my other email accounts are all forwarded to my Gmail inbox.  You can set that up in most email accounts via "settings." 

My old address, which I opened before Gmail came to dominate the Internet, is my commercial junk-mail account.  I provide that address to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, which I know will sell my email address to junk-mail spammers. I do not forward Yahoomail to my Gmail inbox. 

unwanted emailsInstead, every few weeks I check my Yahoo inbox, mark all the junk, and assign it a filter to delete on arrival.

I still get half a dozen scam emails a week in my Yahoo inbox offering me free money, a young foreign bride, threats to garnish my Social Security pension, etc. unless I immediately provide personal information or send them money. 

Hint, no government agency will take legal action against you using email, and agencies only use email to respond to your emails to them or alert you to log into your account with them.  Also, never ever click on a hyperlink in an email to go to a site you must log into - it could be a spoof site to get personal information to drain your bank account.


Keeping in Touch. 

Despite mom’s limited understanding of computers, she did a stellar job of trying to stay in touch with friends she had known all her life.

I too have been exchanging mail/email with one of my oldest pals, Ken, since age 14. He even wrote to me in Vietnam while he was doing conscientious objector volunteer service.  In fact, several years ago, I created a "posse" of mostly old high school and grad school friends by creating a mail-list (go to your email settings/help for guidance). Every few days I email all 14 of them (so far) a link to a thought-provoking article online and we exchange impressions/ideas to stimulate conversations among all 14 posse members.

Of course, as you know, you fall out of touch with people, and then 1 or 5 decades later, something reminds you of an old playmate, classmate, lover, teacher, etc., and you think: “I wonder whatever happened to ….” You need the Internet for that, and like Sherlock Holmes, you also need to be a patient and persistent detective gathering every clue you can find.

I should warn you, even after my search tutorial (coming attractions) and my segment called "Whatever Happened to Whatshername" you might only succeed 1 out of 10 tries.  So what?  Time is what retirement pays you in lieu of wages; and reconnecting - totally worth it.  


Getting In Touch. 

You can use Email to form NEW friendships; not just sustain old ones.  Every now and then, somebody publishes a journal article or essay on the Internet which so impresses me that I email the author and tell him/her so.  Over the years that has led to research collaborations, helping journalists with scoops and background information, and sometimes developing a personal relationship --- just by emailing them. 

In addition, many blogs and news sites invite reader commentary.   

Occasionally, I notice a person commenting on the same articles or social media posts seems to share similar interests and viewpoints to me.  Social media usually enables users to message one another, and through messaging you may share email addresses to get to know each other better. 

I met one of my most extraordinary new friends about a year ago when he was commenting on a blog we both followed.   John and his wife live in Europe.  Fifteen years my senior at 88, John was in the broadcast and entertainment fields.  He has a fascinating life history, is an engaging conversationalist, and knows a great many celebrities.  He and I exchange emails now almost daily as well as Facebook comments. 

We will definitely meet for dinner once COVID-19 dies out and we can resume traveling to our house in Europe once again.


Expressing Gratitude. 

I have used the Internet to find every mentor in my career and emailed them to express my gratitude and tell them how my life turned out after moving on.

For example, in 2006, I stumbled across the email address of the Commanding Officer of my first Navy ship. We parted company in 1974. Unsure if the address I found still worked, I emailed him anyway.  I related how he influenced my leadership style, and how after grad school, I returned for a very fun yet crazy Navy career. I was his navigator – a reserve Lieutenant Junior Grade.

He responded by telling me that he read my email to his wife, and she cried – Wow! We became Facebook friends and stayed in touch until his death in 2017. 

Of course, included in my gratitude group are many professors from my grad school days and professional colleagues in the Navy and Federal Government.  Some are still alive and we share life events on Facebook and emails. 

I continue to stay in touch with my major professor for my masters degree (still alive) and drive down to Boca Raton to take him out for lunch every year.  This month, I got a response to an email I sent 6 months ago to what I hoped was the email address of an old Pentagon colleague.  Turns out Mike has been ill - thus the time lag.  Through Mike, I learned that our old boss, Charley, retired in the 1990's, might be living in Alabama.  After 30 minutes of Googling, I found what seemed likely to be Charley's email address from a local Lions Club website in Alabama.  It was!

I told both Mike and Charley how formative their influence was on me back then.  More importantly, I now have two new Facebook friends!


Which email is the best?

Doubtless, people have different opinions. In my mind, everyone should have either a Google Gmail or a Microsoft Hotmail account because those two multinational companies are not likely to go bankrupt as AOL and Yahoo have done a few times. Also, both Google and Microsoft offer a free contacts database in which to store all your contact information. You might argue that your work email or local Internet provider’s email service works just fine. However, keep in mind, that your office email address only works until the day you retire, and Internet service providers often change when you relocate.  Gmail and Hotmail addresses are not tied to employers or geography.



All emails end - some with a complimentary close - others with not even your name (Oops forgot!). 

Email life can be simpler if you program your email software to automatically add a signature block. That creates the email equivalent of letterhead stationery.  Of course, every email vendor does it differently. 

I put my name, address, and phone numbers in a signature block along with an avatar under an image of my hand-written name - Tom. I also have an alternate signature for Navy emails, and a 3rd used when I consult now and then.  Google and Microsoft offer guidance from their email “help menu” on how to do this. Warning, it is a bit complicated, but not impossible if you want to add things like images or your written name and an avatar. 

Hopefully, I have inspired you to expand your online social life, by keeping better in touch with friends using your email service. 

As I mentioned, it can also help you link up with people on social media like Facebook and Twitter.  I'll have more on social media in the future.



View the Series


An Internet Enabled Life

Having used technology all my working life, and now being retired, I notice that many of my peers are missing out on some of the benefits that come with appropriate use of the latest technology.

In this first of a series of articles, I start by just describing my Internet-enabled life. In other parts of the series, we offer essays describing a myriad of ways the Internet can enrich your day. I want to get you “hooked” to the Internet.



Reader Comments: "The Email"


from Ann olson (unverified) at June 01, 2020

Does Alexa or any of those devices write and send emails when you ask them to?


from Tomonthebeach (member) at June 03, 2020

I would never let Alexa technology into my house because it is too easily hacked or spied on by perverts, advertisers, and the police.  So I can only offer this suggestion.  If you have such a device like Alexa, ask it to send an email to your address with a message like "Test 123" then see if you get it.  If you do, then it works.  My guess is that you will hear instead: I'm sorry, I'm not sure how to help you with that.

If you are disabled or just like to play around with technology, you can find apps that will take email dictation.  Check out this Youtube video to learn how to dictate using Gmail. For alternative browsers use this link to search for more help.


from Jack Cumming (member) at June 10, 2020

I've had Alexa since 2014 and have never encountered perverts nor police eavesdropping.  There have been ads but they have been unintrusive... just annoying as most ads are.  As for police eavesdropping, they'll be very disappointed if they have time for that since I lead a very law-abiding life.   If you have perverts on your Alexa, it may be that you invited them into your life.  I can't imagine how that would come about.  You seem to believe that Alexa has no built-in security to prevent people from hacking in to take control of the device and to use it for some nefarious purpose.  I've never experienced that and the Alexa ability to check on my cognitively impaired relative to ensure that all is well is something I've found only with the more costly Independa system.

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