Email lists

One of the oldest ways of publishing information electronically is by e-mail list and it predates the worldwide web by quite a long time.

The simplest form of e-mail list involves an individual communicating by sending an e-mail addressed to a number of people at the same time. The first time this happened was probably about three seconds after e-mail systems first appeared in 1965 according to Wikipedia.

Typing in lots of e-mail addresses got tiresome after a while and programs were developed which managed mailing lists and allowed the owner of a list to send out messages with little effort. These systems first appeared in 1985, Wikipedia again, on the Bitnet network, which linked US universities at the time.

Someone wanting to subscribe to (join) a list or unsubscribe, could do so simply by sending a message to an e-mail address monitored by the program running the list. The message would typically contain the word subscribe or unsubscribe in the subject line, and the system would react accordingly.

There are announcement lists, in which one person communicates with many, and discussions lists which are used by groups to chat amongst themselves on topics of interest. In the latter case, messages sent by one member of the group are sent to all other members.

There are probably millions of mailing lists out there being used to keep groups of interested people update and informed. I subscribed to a lot of lists when I first discovered them but, over the years, I found it hard to deal with the amount e-mail received.

One of the most interesting lists that I currently receive is the free Mike’s List which keeps track of quirky technological developments. The current issue has full details about electronic lederhosen, incorporating cellphone and MP3 player, a hamster-controlled robot, and solar-powered robots which move the fences in cow pastures.

The cream of the current crop of stories is a link to a Japanese shop selling a combined sellotape dispenser and 4-port USB hub. The language, surely translated by machine, on the shop’s website is absolutely priceless and puts the classic English As She Should Be Spoke, to shame.

One gem reads: “When HUB of USB and the dispenser of the scotch tape, two it arranges this, the narrow desk becomes narrower, don’t you think?. HUB and the dispenser became set, if this commodity is used, also the desk spreading a little, efficiency rise!”

Another classic, describing a product called iBlue Tube, says: “The vacuum tube amplifier which can be connected with iPod, warmly it is the sound which is the straw raincoat”.

Go to to view the current issue and sign up.

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