Roadmap96: MAP04 - E-mail | WebReference

Roadmap96: MAP04 - E-mail


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"I have received no more than one or two letters in my life that were worth the postage."
-- Henry David Thoreau

I think I have the oldest e-mail program in history. I would not be shocked to learn that my VM Mailbook program was written by the ancient Greeks (or by my campus' squirrels). Actually, I recently received an e-mail from the author of my mail program in which he said, "I am not a Greek." So, let me clarify: VM Mailbook is a GREAT mainframe mail program, but unfortunately what the University of Alabama's version of VM Mailbook does not have is a spell-checker, so a few typos are bound to slip through in these posts. Please accept my deepest apologies for this. :)

Almost all e-mail programs have similar, universal functions. The problem is that different e-mail programs use completely different commands to access these functions. (Example: to reply to the author of a current message using the ELM or PINE e-mail programs, you type the letter "r"; to do the same function in the VM Mailbook program you have to hit the PF5 key).

I am not going to be able to discuss all of these functions, but what sort of functions do most e-mail programs have in common? Well, most mail programs have functions that will allow you to:

Depending on your e-mail software, these functions are either easy or difficult ... but nearly always possible.

With all of the different e-mail programs out there, and with all of the different commands required to run each program, how are you ever going to find out what commands are right for YOUR e-mail program? Easy! Ask your local e-mail service provider! This may shock you, but almost every mail provider offers some sort of instruction sheet or file that will teach you how to use the e-mail program that your provider is running. All you have to do is ask!

I want to take a moment to show you how to read an Internet address. I have to admit that when I first started learning how to use e-mail, I was intimidated by the length of Internet addresses. However, once I learned to read the addresses BACKWARDS -- from right to left -- Internet addresses ceased to be a thing of mystery.

The first e-mail address I ever had was


Every Internet address has three parts -- a user name, an "at" sign (@), and the address of the user's mail server. In this example, my user name was PCRISPE1 (and stop laughing -- there is nothing funny about "p-crispy-one"), and my mail server's address was UA1VM.UA.EDU

The mail server address (the UA1VM.UA.EDU part of the above example) is actually called the "domain name," and it is based on something called an Internet Protocol (or IP) address. Each server connected to the Internet has a numerical IP address. The IP address is four sets of numbers separated by periods. (For example, the IP address for the mail server that I am using at the University of Alabama is

Fortunately, the powers that be realized that people remember NAMES better than they do numbers, so they created the Domain Name System (DNS). The Domain Name System associates each numerical IP address with an easier-to-remember DNS name. (For example, thanks to the Domain Name System, the IP address becomes the much easier-to-remember UA1VM.UA.EDU).

You may run into IP addresses from time to time when you are FTPing or telnetting (we will talk about both of these tools in a few weeks). Just remember that an IP address (the four sets of numbers separated by periods) is simply another way to write a domain name, and you will do fine. Both IP addresses and domain names should work equally well.

Anyway, back to the "p-crispy-one" example. Remember that my domain name was UA1VM.UA.EDU? Well, as I said earlier, the best way to read an Internet address -- and, for that matter, a domain name -- is from right to left. Domain names are broken down as follows:

     EDU     Educational sites
     COM     Commercial sites
     GOV     Government sites
     NET     Network administrative organizations
     MIL     Military sites
     ORG     Organizations that don't fit into other categories
             (usually not-for-profit organizations)
     INT     International Organizations
     SU      Soviet Union (Yes, there is still a Soviet Union, at 
             least on the Internet -- as Thomas Dowling pointed out, 
             "they're keeping their options open")
     FR      France
     CA      Canada
     ...     (other countries have their own country codes)

There is also a new country code that you are going to start seeing more and more in the months ahead: US. The US country code is for local, state, and national government agencies, schools, libraries, museums, and institutes in the United States.

Anyway, since my old domain name has an EDU at the end of it, we now know that UA1VM.UA.EDU is the domain name for some educational site in the United States. But where?

The rest of the UA1VM.UA.EDU domain name lists the "subdomains" that tell you where my old mail server was actually located. UA is the University of Alabama, and UA1VM is the name of my mail server's machine.

So, PCRISPE1@UA1VM.UA.EDU is the Internet address for someone named "p-crispy-one" (stop laughing!!) at some U.S. educational site. Further investigation shows that the site is at the University of Alabama, and that the machine which "p-crispy-one" used was called UA1VM.

Actually, I recently changed my e-mail address from PCRISPE1@UA1VM.UA.EDU to CRISPEN@CAMPUS.MCI.NET, but you can still reach me through my old "p-crispy-one" account :)

Another sample Internet address: W.V.BRAUN@HQ.MSFC.NASA.GOV

Okay, reading this right to left, we see a GOV. That means it's a U.S. government address. I think we all know what NASA is -- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Unless you are a big NASA fan, however, you probably do not have the slightest clue what MSFC stands for (it is the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama). HQ is pretty self-explanatory: Headquarters.

So we know that W.V.BRAUN@HQ.MSFC.NASA.GOV is the address of some person named W.V.BRAUN whose mail server is at the Headquarters of the Marshall Space Flight Center, and that the Marshall Space Flight Center is part of NASA, which itself is part of the U.S. government.

What can you determine from the Internet address


A lot, especially if you are a history buff, and if you know that "SACEUR" is the military abbreviation for Supreme Allied Commander- Europe. By the way, both the W.V.BRAUN and IKE addresses are fake. Dr. Von Braun and President Eisenhower never actually had e-mail addresses.

The best rule of thumb I can give you about Internet addresses is this: if the address is not in the form described above and does not end with one of the standard top-level domain abbreviations or country codes, the address is NOT an Internet address. You may still be able to send mail to non-Internet addresses through a gateway, though.



Today's homework is completely optional. Remember though, please do not send your homework assignments to me. :)

1). I want you to find the following two commands for your mailer:

You will soon discover that these two commands are the most important, and most used, e-mail commands.

2) If you have "Level Two" or "Level Three" connectivity and are on a UNIX, VAX/VMS, or VM system, there are three files I want you to GET from the InterNIC's LISTSERV file server (see MAP02: LISTSERV FILE SERVER COMMANDS for a review of the GET command).

The files are from Richard Smith's "Navigating the Internet" workshop, and Richard was kind enough to give me permission to use them in this workshop.

The first file covers the basic e-mail commands for the UNIX, VAX/VMS, or VM systems. The second file covers the commands to send e-mail, and the third file covers the reply function.

Remember when using the GET command that your commands must be sent to the LISTSERV address, not to the list or to me. Replying to the letter that you are reading right now will *NOT* work.

        UNIX USERS:                    VAX/VMS USERS:
        filename   filetype            filename     filetype
        UNIX1      FILE                VMS1         FILE
        UNIX2      FILE                VMS2         FILE
        UNIX3      FILE                VMS3         FILE
        VM USERS:
        filename   filetype
        VM1        FILE
        VM2        FILE
        VM3        FILE

You will have to use three GET commands (one for each file), but you can put all three GET commands in one letter. For example, if I wanted to get all three VM files, the body of my letter would look like this:





3) If you are not on a UNIX, VAX/VMS, or VM system -- or if you are not sure what sort of system you are on -- contact your local Internet provider and ask for some information on how to use your mail program.

In particular, you should ask for information on how to:

You probably know how to do most of these things, but it never hurts to review them from time to time.

4) If you would like to get a list of all of the Internet Country Codes, use the GET command to get the file COUNTRY FILE from the InterNIC's LISTSERV file server.

Start Lesson Five | Go to the Roadmap96 Syllabus | Go to the Roadmap96 Homepage

Originally written by Patrick Douglas Crispen