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You’ve got 10 years of e-mail

Published (Volume 76, No. 30)

Electronic mail … how would UTM survive without it? To access an entire world of information at one’s fingertips is an everyday occurrence at UTM, but this access came only a short decade ago. In the spring of 1994, the UTM Computer Center gave students, faculty and staff something to improve communication across the campus.

The new era came in the mid 1980s, when UTM linked with the UT Knoxville VAX account. This first, and very limited, access was only available to the computer center staff and a few select faculty.

The first access students had came through McGill University System for Interactive Computing, or M.U.S.I.C. It was only open to professors who needed e-mail for their classes and the students enrolled in the classes. Though some departments, such as English, took advantage of the new things e-mail had to offer, it was first widely used by those enrolled in Computer Science courses.

In late 1993, the first fiber optic cables were installed at UTM. By 1994, the first MARS box, IBM RS6000, was installed. With the installation of the MARS box, each student was given his or her own e-mail account for personal and academic use. This gave way to the mars accounts that students use today.

Just as with every other form of technology to come along, this early age of e-mail had its advantages and disadvantages.

While disadvantages range from lack of personal contact to being open to miscommunication, Terry Lewis, assistant director of Computer Services, is all for e-mail.

“How did we do without it? Back then, it took a while to get everyone on campus accustomed to e-mail,” Lewis said. “Life is better with e-mail because it has increased productivity. If there are questions, we can get answers immediately.”

Mike Abney, assistant director of Computer Services, sees hardly any downside to e-mail.

“E-mail has improved communications in every aspect. It helps save money that would be lost with postage and phone calls,” he said.

Students have learned that e-mail is a vital tool in education. It allows ways to contact fellow students and professors to help with homework.

“The advantage is that it helps to increase the amount of communication between students and professors,” said Matthew Muehlberger, a senior communications major from Leesburg, Va. “The disadvantage is that e-mails are not personal and sometimes can be misleading in wording of any document.”

Ten years ago, e-mail became the fastest form of communication. Many UTM professors check e-mail regularly in between classes. Because of today’s busy, always-on-the-go society, e-mail is sometimes a quicker alternative to asking questions about homework outside of class.

“The only benefits from not having email that I can think of would be that viruses and worms would not be sent and I might have a half-hour or so freed up during the day-time I usually spend writing and responding to email,” said Dr. Daniel Nappo, an assistant professor in the Modern Foreign Languages Department.

“Generally, though, I think we would be at a great disadvantage if we didn’t have it, because we would lose a fast and inexpensive means of communication. I remember the days of letters and phone calls; things did not get done as quickly.”

Students are given MARS accounts when first enrolled at UTM. Each account may be used until graduation, but the account is disabled about two weeks of the first semester a student is not enrolled, and the account is deleted soon after. “If you have e-mail in your account, take your mail with you before you graduate,” said Bruce Harrison, IT Administrator III of Computer Services.

Where will be UTM be in 10 years on the information superhighway? Only time will tell.