“Do Not Store Up for Yourself E-mail on Earth”

“You’ve got mail!”

That was the voice AOL users like me once heard every time we checked our e-mail (and still do, if we check it on AOL’s site). I suppose it was when I started using Microsoft’s Outlook to snag the cyber-stuff that the familiar voice from my computer went largely silent. (I don’t mind Outlook not talking; I’m just pleased when it works at all.)

“You’ve got mail!”

I wasn’t aware of the name behind that voice until today: Elwood Edwards. An old article on FastCompany.com calls Edwards “the biggest celebrity you’ve never heard of,” and it tells how his voice came to welcome AOL users some 27 million times a day.

The guy who some folks have called “the little man on my computer” is six foot six, has been general manager for a TV station in Houston, now lives in Ohio, and had long done “voice overs” for commercials and promos. His wife was working for Quantum Computer Services whose CEO was a young guy named Steve Case. She heard Case say that he wanted to add a voice to their “user interface.” She suggested her husband Elwood whose voice was soon recorded on an ordinary cassette tape recorder: “Welcome!” “You’ve got mail!” “File’s done!” “Goodbye!” Quantum eventually changed its name to America Online, and the rest is history.

The “You’ve Got Mail!” audio file is still available online in a variety of formats that can be added to some e-mail programs if you’d like to hear that old welcome again. It’s remarkable how ubiquitous and oddly comforting that old sound was for so long.

The article goes on to mention that, though Edwards has had many offers, he’s refused to use the line in any off-color way. It has been “spoofed” a good bit on talk shows, etc., and I’m sure you remember it also as the title of a very popular movie. A TV station in Chicago once got Elwood to say for them in jest, “You’ve got no mail, loser!”

If I’d heard that notification last night, I’d not have felt like a loser; I’d have felt wonderfully free! And that’s how I DID feel.

Last week, my e-mail—new, old, saved, and otherwise—was bumping up toward the 3,000 mark, multiplying like paper on my desk and all other flat surfaces, metastasizing like junk in my garage. As I’d done countless times before, I started culling through it, trying to tame it, tossing the worthless and saving the worthwhile.

Then I snapped. I just deleted it. All of it. And it feels so good, so freeing, that I think I’m about to light my desk on fire in search of that same great taste of liberty!

Didn’t Jesus say something along the lines of, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his e-mails”? And “Do not store up for yourself e-mail in cyberspace where identity thieves hack in and steal”?

I’m sure he did say something to the effect that we’ll be a lot happier in this life if we’ll learn to travel light. I’ve got a long way to go, but learning where the “delete” key is on the computer is a move in the right direction!


Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

You’re invited to check out my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!


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