How has e-mail affected your life?

With the 30th anniversary of e-mail, CNET News.com queries technology executives, venture capitalists, poets and the White House on the significance of the medium.

CNET News staff
4 min read
With the 30th anniversary of e-mail, CNET News.com queried technology executives, venture capitalists, poets and the White House on the significance of the medium. Here is a sampling of the responses:

 From the moment I got my first AppleLink account, e-mail changed my life. In fact, it enabled me to woo the woman who became my wife. I cannot remember life before e-mail, and I cannot envision a life without e-mail.
--Guy Kawasaki, chief executive, Garage Technology Ventures

 E-mail is fully part of the mainstream. It's part of the lifeblood of our economy and our lives.

In particular, the president appreciates the hundreds of thousands of e-mails that have been sent to the White House in the past three weeks. The e-mails are inspiring, patriotic and illustrate how our citizens and people from across the world love America.
--The White House

 I avoided it for the longest time, feared it would complicate my life. It makes many communications simpler, especially work-related ones. I fear it has taken a bit of an edge off of my daily writing practice, however, because often I begin the day answering e-mail, when in the past I used to begin it answering the muse by writing poetry. Of course the defection from poetry to e-mail is entirely my own fault. But there's something so instant and desirable and (often) erotic about e-mail, it overshadows the pleasures of the poem.
--Wayne Koestenbaum, poet

 E-mail is an inflection technology; it has completely changed the nature of how businesses communicate and the culture that surrounds it. It has opened new doors for innovative technologies and new business models, and there are still tremendous opportunities for emerging technologies to further the electronic messaging platform.
--Wes Raffel, general partner, Advanced Technology Ventures

 E-mail brought me into contact with the phenomenal diversity of America.

When I was running WebTV, the WebTV service would greet each new user with an e-mail message from me welcoming them to the Internet. A surprisingly large percentage of users actually would take the time to reply with a thank-you message...Each day I would receive hundreds, eventually thousands, of e-mails from every corner of the United States, from an unbelievable range of diversity: ages 5 to 105, male/female, every ethnic group, every race, every economic class, every sexual orientation, every political affiliation, and every imaginable religion, cult, sect or club.

People would ask questions, offer ideas, tell me about their new puppy, their love of god, opine about the weather, tell a heart-warming story like how WebTV connected them with a long-lost family member, or tell a heart-breaking story that they felt they needed to share with someone. Somehow having a human face behind the anonymity of the Web established a high level of intimacy and trust.

I miss those early days when my in-box was tapped into the whole of America, each e-mail a delightful slice of one person's life. It changed my view of the world forever.
--Steve Perlman, chief executive, Rearden Steele

 I can't imagine life without e-mail. I am never away from it: My wireless BlackBerry and my Palm VII make sure to fill any gaps when my computer is not connected. DigiMine's heartbeat is best measured in e-mail--from technical discussions, to customer issues, to strategy ideas, to management decision.

Like all good things, about 80 percent of what I get is unfortunately noise. Auto-filtering and filing only helps cut down critical incoming mail to about 200 messages.

But I would not give it up: It is a great enabler. It is a great management tool. I am on almost every important group mail alias at DigiMine. I view much of that incoming e-mail stream as reassuring background music. It keeps me passively in touch with the heartbeat of the company. I also know at any one time what the big issues are in development, research, customer service, operations or management. It is an incredible tool to stay connected.
--Usama Fayyad, chief executive, DigiMine

 E-mail is the first new peer-to-peer communication system adopted by the masses since the telephone. Having an e-mail address today is often even more important than having a telephone number. E-mail is indispensable for personal and business communications. And just like the phone has gone wireless with cell phones, e-mail is going wireless and content is getting richer. The future of e-mail is instant visual messaging, anytime, anywhere.
--Philippe Kahn, chief executive, LightSurf

News.com's Ben Charny, Paul Festa, Rachel Konrad and Robert Lemos contributed to this report.