11/18/99 2:43 a.m. RE: “no offense”.
November 18, 2014 7:03 AM   Subscribe

"The next day, though, I woke up unnerved and dimly remembered getting badgered by Wesleyan after I graduated in 2001, asking me to do something to save the messages after they were transferred onto a web-based system. I typed in “email.wesleyan.edu” and my old username, just to see what would happen. | It opened up with my first guess at a password. Over four thousand emails —including sent mail, drafts, “_pine_interrupted_mail,” something called “dead letter” and another folder called “postponed_msgs”—stared at me. Who were these people? Who was I?" --Every email is a Ghost Story on the Awl.
posted by Potomac Avenue (22 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Someone at the table had transferred her college email to Gmail. With a few taps, she surfaced a long-suppressed history. “What kind of maniacal mind would do that?” Jenny asked, frowning.

Heh, I did that. When I'm feeling especially socially inept and awkward I'll go back and read some of those emails to remind myself that, yes, I've made some progress at least.
posted by jacobian at 7:17 AM on November 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

...my old college email account has some of the last messages I ever exchanged with my father before he died, which will be 14 years ago this December 26th.

Ghosts indeed.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:18 AM on November 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I recently signed back into the system I used for email in the late 90s, hoping for clues about some shit I'd been going through at the time — and found that the only messages I'd actually saved were long forwarded lists of incredibly stupid jokes. Apparently my ghosts are a bit subpar.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:21 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

...it also has the lengthy correspondence between my wife and I, working hard to charm each other during our respective study abroads, in the earliest stages of our relationship.

electronic correspondence is both more and less fragile than physical letters. Letters slowly age and degrade, and since they're a single copy, they're more easily lost and destroyed. But email can exist in perfection for years and years, until a server clean-up wipes away decades of history.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:22 AM on November 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

it's all contaminated
posted by thelonius at 7:28 AM on November 18, 2014

I miss Pine.

Gmail is good in many ways, but it truly deeply sucks with addresses. In particular, it sucks up the address of anyone and everyone you've ever communicated with, and thus my Contacts is 1000s of people long. Correspondingly, autocomplete is completely broken by those 1000s of addresses, roughly 23% of whom are named Mike or Jen (yet the Mike I want to email -never- is an autocomplete option).

What I miss most about Pine is nicknames. I miss typing 'ac' or 'mom' and having the correct address get filled in.
posted by Dashy at 7:30 AM on November 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

I still regret deleting my LiveJournal account. So much of my online life was spent there from 2001-2004.
posted by stltony at 7:36 AM on November 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

All of your college IT departments must have been very generous with space. I lost most of my college email because we were only allowed like 3 or 5 MB worth of space in our inboxes, such that you had to constantly clean it out. And I think everything was automatically deleted over the summer, or maybe even at the ends of the semester. Fucking VAX.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:38 AM on November 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh, pine.

Super rad? Showing my cousins my 1337 h4x0r skillz by firing up telent on my Win95 machine at home during the Christmas break to check my school email.

posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:48 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

My school email was stored in AFS and I was only allowed a quota of 5 MB for my whole home directory including email, documents and any C++ projects that I was working on. My last year I finally petitioned to get my quota bumped up to 10 MB.
posted by octothorpe at 7:51 AM on November 18, 2014

Another shoutout for Pine. Oh, how I pine for your plain text interface and your one-letter commands.

And another exasperated shake of the fist for autocomplete. Really, Mail? I emailed this Jim once six years ago, I email that Jim literally every day, and still you can't switch the order in which you show their addresses? Are you trying to tell me something?
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:14 AM on November 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

AFS is still out there, and used in some large environments.
posted by psolo at 8:36 AM on November 18, 2014

every few years i go back and read my old journals, chat logs, emails, notes...

I'm slowly stopping being ashamed and angry at who i used to be, and start thinking of him as an alternate universe version of myself.

I hope someday we can be friends.
posted by rebent at 8:37 AM on November 18, 2014 [9 favorites]

You make me feel old. I still use pine -- well, the newer clone alpine. You can find it in your friendly neighborhood linux repository, just an apt-get or yum away.
posted by fings at 8:56 AM on November 18, 2014

You're not along fings.
posted by sardonyx at 9:06 AM on November 18, 2014

I've migrated my mail forward every single time I've changed email services since my first BBS-based mail system in 1988, which means my 'All Mail' folder (now in Gmail) has every message I have ever sent or received for the last 26 years. It's kind of terrifying, really.
posted by dmd at 9:45 AM on November 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I'm feeling nostalgic I will go back through gmail and re-read what I had sent, nearly 8 years ago. I moved my Hotmail history over to that account so I've got a trove. Add to the mixture all my chat logs for the last 5 years or so, and it's some heady stuff. That letter I wrote when we broke up? Yeah it's in there. So are the letters to people I left when I moved away. Ah good times. My past is forever archived. I just need to go looking.
posted by msbutah at 10:34 AM on November 18, 2014

Oh wow...small world. The author mentions emails from a friend, Chuck, who passed on about 15 years ago. He was a wonderful friend (I was a year ahead of him at Wes and we were in the same co-ed frat there.) I, too, kept his emails -- even printed a few out as hard copies -- just to have *something* to hold onto after he was suddenly just GONE at age 24.

Ah, suddenly there's something in my damn eye...
posted by medeine at 12:58 PM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also caught unprepared for the mention of Chuck in the article.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:26 PM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

AFS is still out there, and used in some large environments.

Yup. I ended up working for Transarc -> IBM, so I know lots about AFS. They tried to kill it for years but customers loved it so they finally gave up and gave it away. One of my best friends was the person at IBM who handled the project to turn the product into the OpenAFS project.
posted by octothorpe at 4:13 PM on November 18, 2014

Yep odinsdream. On top of 26 years of mail, every single chat log. ICQ, AIM, IRC, Gchat, every single word of it.
posted by dmd at 6:37 PM on November 18, 2014

I miss Chuck, too.
posted by gkr at 8:37 AM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

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