Sending an email using a 30-year-old computer


There was once a time when reading and sending email was an ‘event’.

I still recall using a primitive version of Outlook Express to download emails using the POP3 service, long before I ever owned a web-based address (that wouldn’t happen until partway through high school).

I don’t feel terribly nostalgic for those times, although there’s a lot to be said about the triviality of communication in the modern age. It takes no effort to send an email to almost anyone – any email spammer would say as much.


That’s why for me, it’s such a pleasure sending an email using the Alpine email client, running via Raspberry Pi through the Apple //e Super Serial Card (more on that another time).

It wasn’t easy – several online guides offered instructions that were either out of date or just unsuitable. In practice, it’s a matter of getting Gmail and Alpine to talk with one another. It did take a few moments, but eventually my configuration ‘stuck’, and I had a fully capable email client running on the Apple //e computer.

Indeed, I’m using the WordPress ‘Post by Email’ capability to compose this entry.

Of course, there are limitations. I can see no practical way of inserting attachments using this system. In theory, I could load attachments onto the Pi and then attach using the Alpine system, but I’ve been spoilt by the simplified drag-and-drop system of modern email clients.

Using it for the purpose of posting an entry, I’ll still have to go back into WordPress on Windows 8.1 to verify formatting and insert graphics, so it’s not a total solution.

DSC00206_1But what this system lacks in functionality it makes up for with style.

There’s something about the sound of the Apple //e keyboard that makes even the most mundane of communications seem important. It’s extremely satisfying listening to the ‘clack clack clack’ of the keys.

There is also something to be said about minimising distractions. Without the use of ‘screen’ in the Linux system, I have nothing else to distract me while I type out this blog post (although I am cheating a little bit, with YouTube running in the background on my Windows machine).

Similiarly, seeing the highlighted line(s) of ‘new’ emails sitting in your Inbox using the Alpine client is much more satisfying than the dull grey or blue shades that are applied on modern web-based email.

It’s similar to when receiving emails used to be a thrill – like a message in a bottle from a distant land, arriving right inside your computer.

Not like now, when I dread the sound of my phone chirping at me.

I’ll likely continue writing up blog posts using the Post by Email feature. I had previously thought about using Multiscribe and then transferring the contents of the data disk using ADTpro, and then extracting using CiderPress. While this works, it’s a few steps too many.

But we will see.

Sending an email using a 30-year-old computer

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