A couplayears ago, Thanksgiving, we were hanging out with my girlfriend’s family, who has a high school sister. I wanted to know what software they were using, it makes me feel really old.

I asked what they use for email? They said they don’t use anything, it’s too slow. I said what do you mean, it’s instantaneous… I was boggled by this.

They were like no, email is too slow. I said what is this. They said it’s too formal, the weight and friction of thinking who you want to send it to, the subject line, write ‘hey mom’ at the top, all this extra stuff you put in the email adds to the cognitive load. ― Mark Zuckerberg

The Guardian: “Facebook Messages announcement: live coverage and analysis” by Charles Arthur, Nov. 15, 2010

On one hand the “cognitive load of email” is too much to bare. On the other hand we’re already “struggling to evade the e-mail tsunami” (The New York Times, April 20th, 2008) (a struggle that can lead to a “cognitive overload syndrom”).

The classic vintage Honeywell ad below from the ComputerWorld magazine, Nov. 16, 1981:

Honeywell ad for electronic mail from 1981Here’s a transcript of the text from the ad:

Electronic mail is a term that’s been bandied about data processing circles for years. Simply put, it means high-speed information transportation. One of the most advanced methods is terminals talking to one another. Your mailbox is the terminal on the desk. Punch a key and today’s correspondence and messages are displayed instantly. Need to notify people immediately of a fast-breaking development? Have your message delivered to their terminal mailboxes electronically, across the hall or around the world. Electronic Mail is document distribution that’s more timely, accurate and flexible than traditional methods. There’s no mountain of paperwork. Administrative personnel are more effective. Managers have access to more up-to-date information. Decision-making is easier. Tomorrow’s automated office will clearly include Electronic Mail. But like the rest of the Office of the Future, it’s available at Honeywell today.


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