"I have received no more than one or two letters in my life that were worth the postage"
Henry David Thoreau

I think I have the oldest e-mail program in history. I wouldn't be surprised if my VM Mailbook program was written by the ancient Greeks (or by my campus' squirrels). One of the features that my mail program does not have is a spell-checker, so a few typos are bound to slip through. Please accept my deepest apologies for this :)

Almost all e-mail programs have similar, universal functions. The problem is that all of the e-mail programs use completely different commands to access these functions (example: to reply to the author of a current message using the "elm" or "pine" e-mail programs, you type the letter "r"; to do the same function in the VM Mailbook program you have to hit the PF5 key).

I'm not going to be able to discuss all of these functions, but what sort of functions do most e-mail programs have in common? Well, most mail programs have

  • a function that will allow you to access and read your incoming mail;
  • another to save incoming mail in a file;
  • one to print incoming mail;
  • one to send new messages;
  • one to reply to a message;
  • another to include a file in a mail message;
  • and one to import/export special objects into your mail messages.
Depending on your e-mail software, these functions are either easy or difficult ... but nearly always possible.

With all of the different e-mail programs out there, and all of the different commands required to run each program, how are you ever going to find out what commands are right for YOUR e-mail program? Easy! Ask your local e-mail service provider! This may shock you, but almost every mail provider provides some sort of instruction sheet or file that will teach you how to use the e-mail program that your provider is running. All you have to do is ask!

I want to take a moment to show you how to actually read an Internet address. I have to admit that when I first started learning how to use e-mail, I was intimidated by the length of all of the Internet addresses. However, once I learned to read the addresses BACKWARDS -- from right to left -- Internet addresses ceased to be a thing of mystery.

    Sample Internet Address (mine): PCRISPE1@UA1VM.UA.EDU
Every Internet address has three parts -- a user name, an "at" sign (@), and the address of the user's mail server. In this example, my user name is PCRISPE1 (and stop laughing -- there is nothing funny about "p-crispy-one"), and my mail server's address is UA1VM.UA.EDU.

The mail server address (the UA1VM.UA.EDU part of the above example) is actually called the "domain" name, and it is based on something called an IP (or Internet Protocol) address.

Each server connected to the Internet has a numerical IP address. The IP address is four sets of numbers connected with periods (for example, the IP address for the mail server that I am using at the University of Alabama is

Fortunately, the powers that be realized that people remember NAMES better than numbers, and they created the domain name system. The domain name system associates the numerical IP address with an easier to remember "name" (for example, thanks to the domain name system, the IP address becomes a much easier to remember UA1VM.UA.EDU).

You may run into IP addresses from time to time when you are FTPing or telnetting (we'll talk about both of these tools in several lessons later on). Just remember than an IP address (the four sets of numbers connected with periods) is simply another way to write a domain name, and you will do fine. Both IP addresses and domain names should work equally well.

Anyway, back to the "p-crispy-one" example. Remember that my domain name is UA1VM.UA.EDU? Well, as I said earlier, the best way to read an Internet address -- and, for that matter, a domain name -- is from right to left. Domain names are broken down as follows:

     EDU     Educational sites in the U.S.
COM Commercial sites in the U.S.
GOV U.S. Government sites
NET Network administrative organizations
MIL U.S. Military sites
ORG U.S. Organizations that don't fit into other categories
SU Soviet Union (yes, there is still a Soviet Union ...
at least on the Internet)
FR France
CA Canada
... (other counties have their own country code)
Since my domain name has an EDU at the end of it, we now know that UA1VM.UA.EDU is the domain name for some educational site in the United States. But where?

The rest of the UA1VM.UA.EDU domain name lists the "subdomains" that tell you where my mail server is actually located. UA is the University of Alabama, and UA1VM is the name of my mail server's machine.

So, PCRISPE1@UA1VM.UA.EDU is the Internet address for someone named "p-crispy-one" (stop laughing!!) at some U.S. educational site. Further investigation shows that the site is at the University of Alabama, and that the machine "p-crispy-one" is using is called UA1VM.

    Another Sample Internet Address: w.v.braun@hq.msfc.nasa.gov
Okay, reading this right to left, we see a GOV. That means it's a U.S. Government address. I think we all know what NASA is -- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Unless you are a a big NASA fan, however, you probably don't have the slightest clue what MSFC stands for (it is the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama). HQ is pretty self-explanatory -- Headquarters.

So we know that w.v.braun@hq.msfc.nasa.gov is the address of some person named w.v.braun whose mail server is at the Headquarters of the Marshall Space Flight Center, and that the Marshall Space Flight Center is part of NASA, which itself is part of the U.S. government.

What can you tell from the Internet address ike@saceur.pentagon.army.mil? A lot, especially if you are a history buff, and if you know that "saceur" is the military abbreviation for Supreme Allied Commander-Europe.

The best rule of thumb I can give you about Internet addresses is this: if the address is not of the form described above and does not end with one of the standard top-level domain abbreviations or country codes, the address is not an Internet address. You may still be able to send mail to non-Internet addresses through a gateway, though.


This homework is completely optional. Remember though, please do not send your homework assignments to me. :)

Also, please remember that you must send your GET commands in the body of a new e-mail letter to LISTSERV@UA1VM.UA.EDU.

  1. I want you to find the following two commands for your mailer:
    • the command that allows you to delete an e-mail letter without having to read the letter
    • the command that allows you to delete an e-mail letter after you have read the letter
    You will soon discover that these two commands are the most important, and most used, e-mail commands you will ever use.

  2. If you have "Level Two" or "Level Three" connectivity and are on a UNIX, VAX/VMS, or VM system, there are three files I want you to GET from the University of Alabama's LISTSERV file server (see MAP02: LISTSERV File Server Commands for a review of the GET command). The files are from Richard Smith's "Navigating the Internet" workshop, and Richard was kind enough to give me permission to use them in this workshop.
    The first file covers the basic e-mail commands for the UNIX, VAX/VMS, or VM systems. The second file covers the commands to send e-mail, and the third file covers the reply function.
    Remember when using the GET command that your commands must be sent to the LISTSERV address, not to the list or to me.
          UNIX USERS:                       VAX/VMS USERS:
    filename filetype filename filetype
    UNIX 1 VMS 1
    UNIX 2 VMS 2
    UNIX 3 VMS 3

    filename filetype
    VM 1
    VM 2
    VM 3
    You will have to use three GET commands (one for each file), but you can put all three GET commands in one letter. For example, if I wanted to get all three of the VM files, the body of my letter would look like this:
              GET VM 1 F=MAIL
    Please remember to send your GET commands -- or *any* other LISTSERV commands -- in the *body* of an e-mail letter sent to LISTSERV@UA1VM.UA.EDU.

  3. If you are not on a UNIX VAX/VMS, or VM system -- or if you are not sure what sort of system you are on -- contact your local Internet provider and ask for some information on how to use your mail program.
    In particular, you should ask for information on how to:
    • access your e-mail program
    • open and read an e-mail letter sent to you
    • save an e-mail letter to a file
    • print an e-mail letter
    • send a new e-mail letter to someone
    • reply to an e-mail letter sent to you
    • include text in a reply (and how to edit this text)
    You probably know how to do most of these things, but it never hurts to review it from time to time.

  4. If you would like to get a list of all of the Internet Country Codes, use the GET command to get the file COUNTRY CODES from the University of Alabama's LISTSERV file server.

Posted bySumedh at 11:47 PM  


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