We live in the era of modern technologies. Therefore, a lot of the things we do, we try to automate in order to make them less costly and more comfortable, to get them done faster and more efficiently. Electronic mail is just one of those inventions that many of us cannot imagine our life without it anymore. It is everywhere: we use it in business (people spend so many hours answering their work mail), in our online social life (you cannot even register on Facebook without one), while shopping (those coupons came in handy) and to have fun (you can get your concert tickets via e-mail and then print them) and so on. Some of us stopped using postal mail a while ago. But even so, one would be wrong to think it ceased to exist. What some regard as an old-school way of mailing, is still a popular service that gets you everything from t-shirts to books to lovers’ presents. People might have stopped sending letters via postal mail (they should not have), but that does not mean that electronic mail killed postal mail. Both of them have their rightful place in modern society, each representing two different methods of communication and change.
It is easy to see why electronic mail became so popular. There are many advantages of it. First and foremost, it is the fastest way to share some information with your friends and colleagues by talking to them or using software like Skype. It takes at most a few minutes for them to get this information and they have an option to reply at once. Besides, modern e-mail providers let you store thousands of letters, filter incoming messages, use tags to mark your post, sort it however you want to, send not only text but different media files, manage your contacts and more. It is important that you can access your mail box via mobile phones and other gadgets. This gives you an opportunity to be aware of everything that is happening at the moment. You can get information as fast as you can – and then react accordingly. This is why electronic mail is so modern-day: it was created and is used primarily as a tool for communication in a high-tech world. Social networks and instant messengers diminished its role as a way of instant communication of a less formal nature a little, but electronic mail remains an easy, important and powerful tool, especially when the need for the more formal communication arises. While nothing can be considered to be one hundred percent safe on the Internet, mail providers do their best to provide the safety of your correspondence, and if you follow their guidelines, the chance that your account will be hacked is very low. Therefore, electronic mail is an important tool in the business world. Companies use electronic mail for both internal and external communications. In 2011, 112 ‘emails’ were sent and received by the average corporate user per day. There are more than 3 billion e-mail accounts worldwide now (Pingdom, 2012), but this hardly comes as a surprise, because electronic mail is free (unless, for some reason, you want to use paid e-mail service). Besides, electronic mail does not require physical address (you do not need to know physical address of the servers too). You just create an account, which takes a few minutes, and you are ready to go. Moreover, in order to send letters, all you need to know is recipients e-mail address: usually, it is something like [email protected].
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Meanwhile, an ‘older’ form of mailing is still alive and functioning. Electronic mail has been around for quite some time (actually, it is older than the Internet (Peter, n.d.)); therefore, postal service had time to change accordingly. Since its establishment as the Post Office Department on July 26, 1775, postal service played an important role in the history of the United States. Today, things like books, magazines, gadgets, and clothing are sent via postal service. The United States Postal Service, as it is known nowadays, is the only operator in the industry, although it has indirect competitors such as package delivery providers. The United States Postal Service is owned by the government, and the president of United States appoints 9 out of 11 members of the board of overseers. Postage and fees are the main sources of funding agency’s operations. In fiscal 2011 year, the United States Postal Service delivered 168 billion pieces of mail that represent $10 trillion in commerce (United States Postal Service Company Profile, n.d.). Postal service used to be (and in some way, still is) the most basic way to communicate with your friends, colleagues and clients. Although people send less letters via postal mail and more and more of them pay their bills online and subscribe to electronic versions of magazines, there is still a lot of stuff that needs to be send and delivered. It is true that the postal service is going through tough times. It has been unable to cover its annual budget since 2007 (Leonard, 2011). It relies heavily on first-class mail: this kind of mail has the highest priority meaning safer and faster delivery. Overall, delivery via postal mail is relatively safe, although, sometimes mail gets lost. Postal mail is also a bit safer in the sense that unlike electronic mail, postal mail requires physical addresses of the sender and the recipient. Furthermore, postal mail is not free and sometimes it is quite expensive to use it.
Both forms of mailing are quite old. As was mentioned earlier, the United States Postal Service was established in 1775 as the Post Office Department. Though, the first official notice of a postal service is dated 1693, more than 130 years earlier (History of the United States Postal Systems, n.d.). E-mail is quite old too and it is older than the Internet. Early e-mail resembled file directories – you could exchange messages with your friends, posting them to each other directories. One of the first e-mail systems was MIT’s MAILBOX. Though, the person credited with inventing e-mail is Ray Tomlinson. In 1972, he found a way to indicated user’s address: he used the ‘@’ symbol (The history of email, n.d.). Nowadays, e-mail evolved into a complex and powerful service.
Although postal mail and electronic mail differ on some levels, there are also some similarities between them. We use both forms of mailing in order to deliver information. Both of them need some kind of addresses, either physical or virtual, for mail to be sent and delivered. Each needs its own unique protocol to function properly. These are just some of the concepts that are similar to both postal and electronic mail.
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People use mail services for a reason. Sending and receiving mail is the most basic way to communicate with people and friends around the world. Today’s economy requires us to use both postal and electronic mail. While business communication is usually done via e-mail, some things, like packages and sensitive mail, require the postal service. Although both services face their own challenges, they will remain popular forms of communication in the foreseeable future.
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