Email account without the web? Like an email appliance?
September 23, 2004 5:22 PM   Subscribe

So my mom needs to get e-mail (okay, okay... I need for my mom to get e-mail), but she doesn't want anything to do with the web ("Sweetie, if I need to look up something on the web, I can call you — you're online all day anyway.").

3com had an e-mail appliance, but discontinued it. WebTV is just plain creepy. She wouldn't do cell phone mail.

Any suggestions on an appliance?
posted by silusGROK to Computers & Internet (21 answers total)
AOL and an old Mac.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:27 PM on September 23, 2004

AOL only if you hate your mom.

Otherwise, try a little Mailstation.
posted by sageleaf at 5:37 PM on September 23, 2004

how about a cheap $250 new PC, a $200 flat LCD montior, and firefox with Gmail set to the home page? Then she'd just have to double click the big fox icon to read email.
posted by mathowie at 5:38 PM on September 23, 2004

Yahoo/SBC had an appliance we gave to my mother in law -it was not at all easy for her to use (on preview it might have been a mail station). Whenever she couldn't get it to work she would call us and tell us it had a virus.

The sum total of the emails we have received go something like this:
Did you get this?

Followed by a phone call to ask if we got it.

I got my technophobic mom on a yahoo account and while it took her some time to get the hang of it I now get regular emails from her. She is so confident she is telling everyone about how she is planning my sister's wedding entirely on the web.
posted by Wolfie at 5:44 PM on September 23, 2004

posted by NortonDC at 5:46 PM on September 23, 2004

Go with the 3Com Audrey net appliance you mentioned. There's an active support base and (afaik) it can just be pluggged into a broadband connection, configured to a pop3/imap server, and the email is 'there'
posted by nathan_teske at 5:53 PM on September 23, 2004

She was all set to inherit my slot-faced iMac, but she doesn't want a computer... and frankly, I understand — it's a different world for folks that have never used a home computer.

The mail station idea looks interesting... and who knew the Audrey was still around! COOL!

Keep the ideas coming, folks. Thanks!
posted by silusGROK at 5:55 PM on September 23, 2004

Most people don't realize all the cool stuff you can do on the Web.

Post on Craigslist for some cheap and used computer; she may use email and then hear about some neat website or web service that she wants to use, and then you'll have to upgrade again.
posted by gramcracker at 6:08 PM on September 23, 2004

The Earthlink Mailstation is alright... my 85-year-old grandma had one for a year and managed. The model she had featured a tiny keyboard, though, which was hell for her poor old fingers, and she was frustrated with the occasional garbled message she'd get when my sister would send e-mail with attachments or any kind of formatting.

Sure was fun trying to explain the technology to her, too. "The machine... talks to the phone... with Motrin?! I thought that was for CRAMPS!"

If I'd been more local, I would have hooked up an old Mac for her -- a larger monitor and normal keyboard would have probably helped her stick with it. As such, she got frustrated and sent it back.
posted by kittyb at 6:42 PM on September 23, 2004

The solution is very, very simple.

If your mother wishes to remain in contact with her child, she will learn to deal with her fear of computers. Make sure you explain adequately the impact of such a decision. Wedding notices... pregnancies... child's first steps... all through email. Get on the train or miss out on your golden years.

Or not.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:55 PM on September 23, 2004

You don't say where you are, but I assume it's the US. Do you not have the Amstrad E-Mailer there?

"The e-mailerplus is a state-of-the-art digital telephone answering machine jam packed with features, making it a ‘must have’ product. You can send and receive email worldwide without the expense or complication of a PC, you can surf the internet using ‘Amsurf’, or download and play great Sinclair ZX Spectrum games."
posted by dash_slot- at 8:11 PM on September 23, 2004

Five years ago when I was working for Bigplanet/NuSkin as an Intranet guy, I got a free Cidco iPhone. I was not a big believer in their products, but this phone is something I've actually enjoyed owning and the email/web features were suprisingly good. Unfortunately, I'm not sure it did well in the US and am not sure if anyone runs an ISP for it anymore -- BigPlanet apparently isn't. But I think you can get them on eBay cheaply now and again (looks like there's two on right now), and I could check to be sure, but you might even be able to set them up for a normal ISP.
posted by weston at 9:15 PM on September 23, 2004

sidekick/hiptop. it's got the cute factor.
posted by judith at 9:17 PM on September 23, 2004

Yes, I'm in the US.

Yeah... I'm thinking I may still end up setting my mom up with my old iMac (once I'm done milking it for all it's worth).

She's a bright woman, and she'll figure it out.

I just wish there were other options.
posted by silusGROK at 9:30 PM on September 23, 2004

So has your mom ever browsed the web or used the internet in anyway? How good is she on the computer? Doing something like what mathowie suggested makes sense. If she's completely web-phobic but can get around a computer somewhat decently, you could try setting up a very basic e-mail client for her, but I don't know of any e-mail clients that only have a very very basic set of features or is able to be customized into a very basic interface.
posted by gyc at 10:30 PM on September 23, 2004

Whatever you do, don't spend too much money, because there's a chance she just plain won't use it, especially since this is your idea and not hers. Although it seems incredible to us, really there are people for whom the internet offers nothing of interest. (I speak from experience with my own family members.)
posted by JanetLand at 6:12 AM on September 24, 2004

I second the G5 iMac. Expensive, but it doesn't look like a computer (not in the traditional sense) and may thus prove less daunting to her: "look, ma, just push this button to turn on the screen, then click here to check your email." Makes it feel easy.

I remember when I introduced my mother to the Internet. She took a while to ramp up, but now she loves using her computer. The secret? I taught her what she needed, when she needed. That way, everything had a purpose. No point in forcing PowerPoint on someone who will never use it--just leave the computer up and running, and let her get curious.
posted by werty at 7:25 AM on September 24, 2004

I think almost everyone here misses the point. The question was for an e-mail device. I suspect one of the parameters was CHEAP and SIMPLE. Send me the iMac.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:43 AM on September 24, 2004

everyone i know who has tried to set up a simple email only solution for someone who doesn't want it has had no success (this has held true for trying to set up 80 year old grannies and 30 year old sisters)--not because the would-be email recipient is stupid, but just not interested enough to be bothered to learn the new--albeit very basic--skill set. in my experience, people who try to go the mail station, webtv, some device that only does email route have the least amount of success and then are stuck with some piece of equipment no-one can get any use out of.

i'd go with the barebones computer/browser set to email option. then when you can't get her interested in it, at least you have a spare machine around that has some utility.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:02 AM on September 24, 2004

Wise words, crush-onastick. Wise words.
posted by dash_slot- at 8:11 AM on September 24, 2004

The question was for an e-mail device.

Exactly why I suggested a Blackberry. Completely unintimidating, simple and straight-forward, can be used anywhere...

I think the strike against it from this crowd is that it's not a PC*, which is actually its greatest strength in this situation.

*Yes, Macs are PCs, too.
posted by NortonDC at 1:57 PM on September 24, 2004

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