I shot this dramatic storm front a few years ago. It hovered over our street for a few minutes and then moved on, dropping a torrential downpour just a few km north of us. I don’t think I’ve ever published the photo here on the site and as I’m soon about to rearrange our company’s domain structure a bit, I figured why not use it to illustrate some nostalgia.
I registered the domain www.raboff.com in 1998 without thinking too much about what I was doing. It just seemed like a good move to secure my last name before anyone else did. I’d bought an expensive network-enabled Macintosh Performa 630 a few years earlier and had found loads of uses for it. It allowed me to scan photos for art projects, research subjects I was lecturing on as an instructor at Gothenburg International Hospitality College and it helped me prepare for classes I taught as a substitute teacher at Vuxengymnasiet. I loved that little computer and it served me well for a few years. It was my second Mac after the portable but less useful Powerbook 100 that I’d bought six years earlier. If I had to guess, I’d say there have been at least 15 Apple branded computers since the Performa.
Anyway, back to the mid 1990s. This is when I collaborated a great deal with Johan, a Swedish-English fellow who was much more web savvy than I but both us felt super excited about all the possibilities the Internet could unleash. We weren’t visionaries by any stretch of the imagination, except perhaps in our own minds, but there was no doubt that we saw the seemingly unlimited potential of what could be accomplished with so many people connected to each other.
Where most of the domains on the World Wide Web were still in a very primitive stage insofar that layout and design was terrible to look at and sites were clunky and unwieldily to navigate, Email was a powerful communication tool that was graphically mature, sleek almost, and most importantly, offered a user-friendly means of communicating to friends and family all over the world. After logging on via the modem’s blinks, blips and beeps, emailing someone felt relatively instantaneous and therefore tremendously gratifying. You couldn’t use your landline simultaneously once you were online, though.
I vividly remember how launching my dedicated email application Eudora and then watching new messages pop up in my inbox was hypnotically exciting stuff. And above all, when compared to message boards, an email could be made endlessly personal by attaching photos, illustrations and even dingbats. I could easily spend hours on end writing and editing emails and waiting for answers to arrive with Eudora’s tinny chime.
Somewhere in the depths of our storage room, I know Charlotte has archived a tidy collection of printed emails that I sent her in those early days of our relationship. And I’m sure Elle will love reading through a few of them sometime in the future. I think my very first email address was firstname.lastname@example.org
Hard to believe that twenty years have passed since that email address meant anything.
Sadly, email seems to be heading towards the same pasture as the dodo bird. I’m sounding like a crumugeon now, but I can’t see how the various chat and messaging apps are worthy replacements for a well-crafted email. Which is likely exactly how folks feel that prefer handwritten letters over those written digitally.