Of all the services that the new means makes available the electronic mail is one of the most widely tested. In practice, instead of writing on normal writing-paper, I write on the keyboard of a computer; then I "mail" my electronic letter in the nearest computer of thenetwork. The operation is very simple and allows letters to be delivered instantenously at very great distances. In fact, once the ltter is written and inserted into Internet, it is immediately avilable to the addressee. In other words, if I write a letter now in Italy to an American friend, after a few seconds he can read it on the monitor of his computer.
Usually, at the beginning of each connection I am told whether I have mail in my electronic mail box; if I do, it is enough to enter the E-mail area to read the letter(s) I have received.
Another interesting thing is the possibility of mailing the same letter to a group of persons I have selected; for instance, with only one operation I can send my letter to hundreds of persons. With this criterion, the so-called news groups are formed, and they can exchange views on subjects of common interest. For instance, a group of researchers of AIDS can communicate all who are interested the latest findings or ask for information on any sort of matter. The same can be done with news groups of any kind, such as the fans of a soccer team, who can exchange information on the team of their heart.
At present there are thousands of subjects on the Internet network on which it is possible to hold discussions or receive information.
Another strictly electronic possibility is the exchange of programmmes from one computer to another regardless of the distance between them. This operation is called ftp (file transfer) and allows programmes to be taken from, the computer in a private dwelling, located for example, in Australia at the mere cost of a local telephone call. In this manner it is possible to have computer programmes, be it games, study courses, pictures and films, songs and music, work programmes and many others, staying at home and selecting from a very vast hypermarket located all over the world.
To make a selection in this huge supermarket there is an electronic file (Archie,) that is not only a command but also, in practice, a catalogue that allows the desired programme to be located among the billions of files in the whole world.
For instance, on Internet there are computers devoted to the performance of this work alone and are available to all the users. In this manner, while scanning a certain subject, such as television, I am told how many articles or programmes are present in the world file and the electronic address of the place where I can find them.
Many services are already available with these basic criteria, such as the classical newspaper. This will no longer be bought at the newsstand, but it will arrive directly through ftp at the computer at home where I can read it and, if I wish, print it, thus saving the publisher all the'expenses for paper, transport and distribution. In addition, it will be available at our home as soon as the sheets have been composed--even at two o'clock in the morning.
With the same method we may decide to buy some books. Instead of going to the bookshop, it will suffice to switch on our telecomputer.lat,home to consult the various catalogues, choose the book and order it through the elctronic mail-here again with ease, simplicity and cost reduction.
Likewise, we may order some good music, selecting the kind and artists we prefer, and we can listen again whenever we wish to the musical passages we purchased through E-mail, because also music can be delivered in the form of a programme for the telecomputer, possibly integrated by a video tape proposed by the author to accompany his melodies with images.Another important area is the purchase of any kind of goods through the telecomputer; in this case an active role would be performed other than what we see today in promotional sales on TV in which charlatans and quacks try not so much to explain the characteristics of the product, but rather to involve the spectator emotionally to the latter's own expense.
With the new interactive means we shall no longer be obliged to listen to idle talk repeatedly for hours and hours to find the product we are interested in, but we can look through very rich electronic catalogues that provide the technical characteristics, clear and detailed quotations for each product. So we can place our orders at any time without the constraint of the now sadly famous words: "Great presents for the first telephone calls ... In fact, the order can be placed at ease at any time and we can choose among many products also of current use, from food to stylish clothing, from gardening items to exotic craftmanship. The list is practically endless and includes whatever is saleable.
In addition to electronic supermarkets, many other services may be involved by the telecomputer; for instance:
- Touristic agencies in which can find not only the leaflets of the journey, but also much more detailed films and descriptions of the site, of the services and costs and the possibility of making an immediate booking after having checked for vacancies.
- Real estates agencies, with the possibility of viewing the interior of an apartment directly from your own home and selecting, by aimed research, only the types of apartments you are interested in; after all the detailed films on the kind of house you wish, it will be possible to make a series of grounded choices.
- Marriage agencies: also in this case you will have at your disposal the possibility of seeing on your telecomputer all the potential twins souls and possibly , establish a first contact electronically and go on to direct contacts later.
- Automobile exhibitions; viewing of the latest cars on the market, possible virtual testing, catalogue of the bargains with photographs and costs.
- Financial consulting services: many specialistic magazines are getting equipped in this direction and offer the possibility of collecting information on the various opportunities for investment, in addition to a vast range of new-generation products
- General consulting services: all consultants could open up a virtual office through the telecomputer to assist their customers. In fact, lawyers, business agents, engineers, work consultants and information consultants, professional men of any sort could offer their services via telematics.
- Automatic application for certificates: also in this area considerable time and maney could be saved especially for handicapped and elderly people who could stay at home and avoid tedious queues and stressing waiting.
- Citizen window: services for the citizen are becoming more and more common. For instance in Italy various civil networks are being experimented to offer all the citizens a better contact with the civil administration, both'at the information level and at the general service level.
- Bookings for tickets of various shows: it will be possible to order tickets for the theatre, sports events, cultural events, concerts, variety shows,operettas, soccer matches, etc.
- Simultaneous translation services; to have texts translated into other languages automatic or semi-automatic translation systems will be available electronically, possibly with the assistance of a translator to integrate the text when it comes to words of infrequent use.
To this list we might add many other opportunities that are related only to our fantasy,.because this new instrument multiplies our capabilities of operating, communicating and interacting ; therefore, any limits are only dictated by our creativity.