August 11, 1999


It's Fast - It's Fun
It's Free - It's Easy!

It's ROCKETTALK, The Planet's FREE Internet Voice Messaging System!

So says the web page at the other end of the ad I clicked through.

It purports to be able to send voice messages to any email account but works best when both parties go through the Rockettalk server.

I poked around the web page but short of joining up, which I have no intention of doing, I couldn't find out much about how it works, how large are the files, and if there's a time limit for messages.

I also don't know how it differs from the ICQ voice messaging system. I have ICQ, rarely turn it on, and have never tried the voice message feature.. but I DID finally plug in my microphone, just in case.

The trend toward voice messaging online, while inevitable, worries me. I had hoped, rather, that the 'net would be instrumental in reviving the lost art of correspondence. Children would once again grow up literate, able to spell (or at least find and TURN ON the spell-checker) and fluent in the correct usage of the apostrophe!

Email has been unfavourably compared to old-fashioned pen and paper mail but to me it's an improvement over a quick phone call. What it lacks in the feel and especially the scent of paper, perfume, and ink, it makes up in immediacy. After all, in the week or so between the time the snail mail letter was written and received, anything could have happened. I want my reply, and I want it NOW!!!!!

Email can be read, reread, forwarded to one's confidante and picked apart, possibly traced to its source (he sent this from WHOSE computer???) and even broken into by the industrious. Imagine being able to read his correspondence with all the OTHER women!!

I understand the allure of verbal communication too.. but that's what PHONES are for. I can't imagine speaking into a microphone and sending a voice message. It must be even more awkward than leaving an answering machine message. How much bandwidth am I wasting, clearing my throat? How long can I go on discussing my day, my business, or my romantic inclinations with no feedback, and not feel completely ridiculous?

Oh and what do I have against ICQ? I find it an intrusion upon my online experience. If I'm emailing, journal-reading, online gaming, or just randomly surfing, I don't want to be interrupted and forced to make pleasant conversation. That led to my lurking invisibly, which after awhile seemed silly so I just don't bother to turn it on at all. I'm not interested in random chat either.. I had enough of that on IRC and would probably go back there if I felt the urge, since I'm used to it.

ICQ is a useful tool at times, though, since most of my contacts there are real-life friends and family, who can be reached and told to get off the damn internet, someone's trying to call you! The kids use it quite a bit, and have their own accounts, which is fine.. they stay in touch with their older cousins, and some friends who have moved away, and have met new people too. (Mother instinct: INSTANT GEOGRAPHY LESSON! WHIP OUT THE GLOBE AND LETS PUT PINS IN THE WALL!)

And no webcam here either.. the last thing I want to have to do before I sit down at the computer is comb my hair and put on a bra!

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