Calcutta (now Kolkatta), 1993, Mango Lane was where I was first introduced to the world of internet. With Rs 100 of my personal savings, combined with a loan of Rs 200 from a friend (who’s name I’ve conveniently forgotten) and an additional Rs 200 provided to me by my the-then employer “Raj Bhaiya”, I was able to pool enough money together to apply for a “Student Shell Internet Account” with VSNL.
I still vividly remember the first day, when internet entered my life. A representative from the VNSL had come over to our office to help us connect to the internet. The computer was running on a 40MB hard disk, windows 3.11 and had a 28.8 kbps modem. The excitement build-up was at its peak when 3, sorry 4 people huddled and hunched close to me when I switched on the Phillips monochrome monitor, connected the modem and opened up the Netscape Navigator browser window.
Every move I made for the next 40 seconds was met with a sigh as I typed my username and password on the screen. Then .. something happened .. huge scrolls of words .. suddenly appeared from no-where onto the screen and vanished off the screen with equal speed which none of us could read. When the scrolling stopped – all that was left was the blinking cursor .. waiting for the next set of instructions !
I’m not sure what the people huddled around me were expecting to see, once we connected to the internet, but I was in no way prepared for this abrupt start ! There were no fancy images, no chat boxes and neither did an email box automatically pop up. I was at a total loss, when the VSNL expert stepped in. Over the next few minutes, he showed me how to visit the all text Yahoo website (that was the only website he knew off) and even helped me setup my first email account.
On the 200km journey back home that evening, I was buzzing with excitement. Hardly able to contain my excitement, I shared the concept of internet with any and all co-passengers seated around me on the train. I vividly remember passing on my new email address to each of them as well, being fully aware that I’ll never receive a single mail from them.
Life for the next few months had taken on a new charm. Every new email which found it way onto my mailbox was read multiple times from the first to the very last word. No matter if an email come through from a supposedly 19 year of Russian girl who had fallen in love with me (without me having ever known her at all) or the fact that I’d recently won a pair of Ray Ban sun-glasses from a new auction site called eBay (which I had never bid for), all emails were treated as REAL, FAIR and worthy of reading end to end. Am not really sure if I was naive or simply foolish, but I somehow made myself believe that there was always some element of truth in those emails out there (which escaped my young inexperienced mind), otherwise why would someone send an email specifically to me ? Email after all was a very personal and technologically advanced medium, it had to do the right thing.
That as 1993 and its 2011 now.
I still get very similar sounding emails everyday. Technology has ensured that I don’t get to see them and they’re very carefully filed across in a private little hidden folder called the “SPAM BOX”. While at one level, I am glad that I don’t get to see them everyday, every once in a while – I do venture into the SPAM box territory to check out what I’ve missed out on. A recent survey revealed that over the 25th and 26th of June, I had:
(see attached image for an actual screen grab)
1. Won a lottery ticket worth millions of pounds
2. I could buy a new Rolex watch at -18%
3. That my alternate ego name was Sir Spire Edge
4. That Dr. Dan Jason (Chairman of a Government Dept in Africa) wanted to invest in my country by sending money to my personal account, which I could then possibly invest on behalf of his government
5. That I had a long lost friend called Geetika who had joined a new social moto site and I was invited to join free as well
6. Last but not least, someone out there was offering me free pills to enlarge my manhood !!
Phew ! Here it was sitting on a treasure in my very own email box, hidden away in one folder – and I did not realize it at all ! Solutions to all my financial, business, psychological, medical and other problems were all out there – waiting for me to reach out and access it and here it was just ignoring the mails.
Even if 1% of what the world of junk email claims were to be true, given that I have so many email address and thus tons of SPAM, I am missing out on such wonderful opportunities to turn my life around on an everyday basis. Isn’t it ? Well – we all know this is not true. Things have changed …….or have they ? Ever considered that it might just be us who have changed.
SPAM was so much of a reality in 1993 as much as it is today. I guess what has changed is me. Yes, the number of messages that has started pouring in have multiplied, but so have my personal contacts over the last 20 years or so. Given an average growth of 3% a year, its no surprise that junk email volumes has kept up with my life’s progress.
The question to ask here is when SPAM is one of the biggest problems in today’s internet age, why do leading email providers like Google, Yahoo and others still hold these mails in a corner of our mailbox hidden away as SPAM and not delete them all together ? I guess the answer is simple. Someone, somewhere out there, still believes, that maybe .. just maybe .. among the 1000’s of SPAM emails we get every day, there might just be a hidden gem of an email – which might change things in your life for ever.
For me, its always fun to visit my SPAM box once in a while. If nothing else, it does get a few smiles and a few laughs from me. Its been nearly 20 years since anything truly beneficial has materialized, but I am ever hopeful that someday – one of these emails is going to be of great value to me. Until the SPAM box exists, I will indulge in looking up some of these emails from time to time.
So have you checked your SPAM box recently ? If not – just give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Author: Anand Chawra