At last, your friends will get your cards before you get home

At last, your friends will get your cards before you get home




Last
week I complained about how poor e-mail-based support had a negative
impact on my European vacation, how a lack of service left me unable to
respond to any emergencies at home. Still, there were no emergencies
and I had a pretty good time — while discovering how e-mail has
transformed the once-clunky process of sending vacation postcards.

In prehistoric times, you would visit some exotic land and pull a
touristy dinosaur card off a rack. You would scrawl a short message,
attempting to cram a week’s worth of news in a tiny space. You then
needed a stamp and a mailbox. With all this, you were almost guaranteed
to arrive home before the card turned up in the recipient’s mailbox.

E-mail’s immediate delivery makes sure the message gets home before
you do. With tiny digital cameras and a nearly universal transfer
process, the visual component can be as convenient and easy. It is even
more so if you carry along a laptop, making it easy to take, edit and
send pictures on the fly. All you need is a wireless connection, and
they are almost everywhere.

I’m as much of a geek as anyone but still decided that a laptop’s
extra size and weight was too much of a burden on this trip. But the
tools to send successful electronic postcards fit into a single pocket.
There is the camera, of course. After this, I took along a connector
designed for my camera’s memory card. I would take a picture, slip the
card into the adapter and load it into the USB port on a computer in a
hotel or a bus station.

Such machines rarely have photo editing programs, but there was
always a simple fix. Paintbrush — or whatever it is called on the
various Windows versions — allows you to crop and resize pictures to
prepare them for sending. It’s nothing fancy and has none of the power
of your basic photo editor. Still, it allows you to emphasize a subject
that fits a certain message; "I’m having a lovely time, wish you were
here." Or maybe you seek to make people envious that you are overseas
for a short while, as everyone else is still living dull lives.

This is probably not a great strategy, as we all return to our own
dull lives soon enough. Aside from that, we don’t travel to exotic
lands to spend time on the Internet. In that respect, the convoluted
postcard process will actually take less time than sending the
electronic equivalent, even if it is a little less personal.

The best strategy is to be ready for anything and know that you can
send an electronic post card if the situation merits. For instance, I
snapped a picture of the Tour de France time trials, enlarged it
quickly and sent it off to a few friends, It took five minutes, and we
all had a special experience.

If you have questions or suggestions for Charles Bermant, you can contact him by e-mail at cbermant@seattletimes.com. Type Inbox in the subject field. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.

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