The way we live and communicate with one another often slides by as if taken for granted. As we began using cell phones it was hard to forsee initially that “texting’ would become the normal mode of contact. Of course we use cell phones to talk to others, but we now more often text one another. For communication that is only slightly more formal we may send an e-mail from one of several e-mail addresses. This is the way we now communicate.
Still, I remember when writing a letter was something we did. We sent “thank-you” notes, long letters to distant friends that we wrote with great passion, sometimes in the middle of the night, because it was important in some way to do so. We wrote them long-hand, later we typed them on a now ancient device known as a typewriter. Early typewriters were hard on the fingers. Mistakes were hard to correct. Eventually electric typewriters allowed us to make corrections with some efficiency. We used a white thin paste (known as white-out). Once the mistake was corrected we would type the letter again and it looked pretty good — when we became proficient at the corrections they looked great. Eventually when the process was automated with what was called “correct-a-tape” — or something like that — it was almost as if a miracle had occurred. This was the hay-day of the IBM Selectric typewriter.
Just as the typewriter hit its peak computers became the major way to communicate and within a year or two all the old IBM Selectrics were put into storage, which is where they stayed. E-mail became the major way to communicate. Inexpensive printers were invented also and attached to the computers and we also wrote very nice, easily edited letters, no correct-a-tape involved. Eventually, we communicated nearly always by e-mail. Formal letters were only sent when it was somehow important to do so for legal or emotional reasons. However, with time fewer and fewer letters are sent. Letters or e-mails are transmitted electronically by e-mail with the speed of light. Printing a letter and putting it in an envelope, fixing a stamp to it and putting it in the mail assures only that someone will receive a copy of what you could have sent by e-mail. Frankly, if they needed a copy you could send it to them by e-mail and they could print it on their printer. The slow pace of the letter printed and put in the mail is now well known as “snail mail.”
Still, occasionally sending a handwritten note or letter to another can have value. It is still a more personal way to communicate. It certainly has shock value as we rarely get personal letters or noted in the mail. That alone makes the hand written letter a valuable expression. It may be a personal statement of love, endearment or friendship. It still has value.