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I Still Use Pine

I graduated a few years ago to Pine from Mail. Yup – Mail, the UNIX program used from the prompt level with no bells or whistles, little UI and zero graphics. Sometimes it’s called Mailx but it’s essentially the same thing. Pine, based on the Pico editor, was a major step up for me – actual folders, hot keys, highlighted text, and scrolling features.

Most people I knew in college were already on Pine, or were using Eudora but I didn’t see the need to change my system for a long time. It was a question of volume that finally drove me to do it – volume and spam. Now I get hundreds of messages a day and I want to be able to control them better. But I digress.

I’m old school – I like checking my e-mail on the server and leaving it there where I can get it from elsewhere if necessary at a later time. I like knowing that if I open the wrong message, I won’t immediately get a virus installed on my machine. And I suppose starting out with the command line just makes me feel more comfortable, like I’m closer to the source.

I’m not really sure why I’m waxing nostalgic this week since I have nothing to prove in the geek department, but one thing is certain: I hate webmail. I didn’t jump on the gmail band wagon because I hate webmail. Every time I’ve tried a webmail system, it’s been slow and buggy. I’m used to typing d 1-1000 and deleting a thousand messages instantly or just holding the ‘d’ key and watching them die. Cheap entertainment, I know, but it’s just so fulfilling to watch it all disappear. With webmail, you check a box, you wait, you check another one, you wait. Then you click an icon and you wait some more. This is supposed to be more efficient how?

I do like HTML mail – to an extent. I read my enclosures in Eudora or Thunderbird (when I’m not busy cursing the bugs) and anything with a lot of HTML or images like eVites or newsletters. Sometimes I don’t read them at all because I just don’t feel like dealing with all of the graphics. I like text. I’m not a luddite, I swear. I have an iPod, I was early on Orkut, I send 6000 text messages a month on my Treo and I have a wireless network at home. I just like to be efficient and the Inbox is one of those places where efficiency is key.

My system is certainly no better or worse than anybody else’s – it just happens to work for me. My friend, Ben Gross, is writing his dissertation on “how individuals manage complex social lives with multiple online identifiers using email, instant messaging and on mobile devices.” He interviewed me while doing his research and we had an interesting discussion about how people can use so many different systems to achieve their goals. I look forward to seeing his final results. Maybe he can convince me to graduate to the next generation technology for e-mail. A new version of Pine?


  1. >I finally after many years had to give up on Pine for two reasons – the spam filtering wasn’t keeping up, and it was too hard to do automated filtering using procmail. (urk, procmail, everything that pine isn’t.)Pine was what made MSEN possible in 1992 or 1993 – you could hand someone who didn’t know Unix pine, say “here is how you send mail”, and not have to answer a zillion questions.