I recently read a New Yorker piece from 1994 which shares the email exchanges between Bill Gates and the piece’s reporter John Seabrook. The piece is enlightening because email had just started to be used by the public and it’s fascinating to see Bill describe his thoughts about the advantages and disadvantages of the medium.
I think that his thoughts are very prescient, and, with the exception of email security which wasn’t an issue back in 1994 but now is, most of them are valid to this day. I’m therefore sharing the thoughts below. The bolding to emphasize certain parts is my own.
If only we would take note.
“E-mail is a unique communication vehicle for a lot of reasons. However email is not a substitute for direct interaction . . .
There are people who I have corresponded with on email for months before actually meeting them—people at work and otherwise. If someone isn’t saying something of interest its easier to not respond to their mail than it is not to answer the phone. In fact I give out my home phone number to almost no one but my email address is known very broadly. I am the only person who reads my email so no one has to worry about embarrassing themselves or going around people when they send a message. Our email is completely secure. . . .
Email helps out with other types of communication. It allows you to exchange a lot of information in advance of a meeting and make the meeting far far more valuable. . . .
Email is not a good way to get mad at someone since you can’t interact. You can send friendly messages very easily since those are harder to misinterpret.”
Also published on Medium.