Electronic mail, or e-mail, is your personal connection to the world of the Net. Every one of the millions of people around the world who use the Net have their own e-mail address. A growing number of "gateways" tie more and more people to the Net every day. When you logged onto the host system you are now using, it automatically generated an address for you, as well. The basic concepts behind e-mail parallel those of regular mail.
You send mail to people at their particular addresses. In turn, they write to you at your e-mailbox address. You can subscribe to the electronic equivalent of magazines and newspapers. E-mail has two distinct advantages over regular mail. The most obvious is speed. Instead of several days, your message can reach the other side of the world in hours or even minutes (depending on where you drop off your mail and the state of the connections between there and your recipient). The other advantage is that once you master the basics, you'll be able to use e-mail to access databases and file libraries. E-mail also has advantages over the telephone. You send your message when it's convenient for you. Your recipient responds at his convenience. No more telephone tag. And while a phone call across the country or around the world can quickly result in huge phone bills, e-mail lets you exchange vast amounts of mail for only a few pennies -- even if the other person is in New Zealand. E-mail is your connection to help -- your Net lifeline. No matter how hard you try, no matter where you look, you just might not be able to find the answer to whatever is causing you problems. But when you know how to use e-mail, help is often just a few keystrokes away: ask your system administrator or a friend for help in an e-mail message.
Eventually, you'll start corresponding with people, which means you'll want to know how to address mail to them. It's vital to know how to do this, because the smallest mistake -- using a comma when you should have used a period, for instance, can bounce the message back to you, undelivered. In this sense, Net addresses are like phone numbers: one wrong digit and you get the wrong person. Fortunately, most net addresses now adhere to a relatively easy-to-understand system.Earlier, you sent yourself a mail message using just your user-name. This was sort of like making a local phone call -- you didn't have to dial a 1 or an area code. This also works for mail to anybody else who has an account on the same system as you.Sites in the rest of the world tend to use a two-letter code that represents their country. Most make sense, such as `.ca' for Canadian sites, German sites end in `.de' (DEutschland), while South African ones end in `.za' (from the archaic spelling Zuid Afrika). Some smaller U.S. sites are beginning to follow this international convention.You'll notice that the above addresses are all in lower-case. Unlike almost everything else having anything at all to do with Unix, Most Net mailing systems don't care about case, so you can capitalize names if you want, but you generally don't have to. Alas, there are a few exceptions -- some public-access sites do allow for capital letters in user names. When in doubt, ask the person you want to write to, or let her send you a message first .The "mail" program is actually a very powerful one and a Netwide standard, at least on Unix computers. But it can be hard to figure out -- you can type a question mark to get a list of commands, but these may be of limited use unless you're already familiar with Unix. Fortunately, there is a couple of other mail.