Why I'm an e-mail addict; My Technology

For the comedian Al Murray, the computer offers a new way of communicat ion without any hassle
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The Independent Culture
THE THING I love about e-mail is the fact that, on a purely simple basis, it has got me writing letters again. After being banished to a boarding school when I was a kid and soon discovering that writing three times a week to your mother had you entering the realm of sissy, I fell out of the habit. I have been feeling terrible about writing letters ever since. To get a thank-you letter from me was like getting blood out of a stone, yet they are so appreciated that you soon realise they just have to be done otherwise you will be sent to relative hell. So the advent of e-mail was miraculous.

I sternly resisted it for ages, being a bit like a vinyl junkie opposing the CD revolution. But I got it because I was having to write a television pilot and it was the best way of getting the draft scripts to my editor. He could then send it back corrected, and it was easier than sending a disk - you just fire it off and it's gone.

However, what it has ended up as is a great way of writing letters. And it's perfect for talking to busy people; everyone screens phone calls these days, but with e-mail you can screen and receive the message at the same time. And you can read it and know exactly what people want- it's not like ringing up and saying "Call me". Those are the practical reasons, but not why I love it so much.

It's better than the old letter because you can edit it, no more screwing Basildon Bond and throwing it in a bin. It's instant like the phone, but it doesn't matter where you are, whether you are in or out, it will get to you. Plus there are no embarrassing silences. I also believe that, in a general way, it has brought back the fact that people write to each other when we have got out of the habit. And with the added bonus of being able to send long strings of rubbish Clinton and Lewinsky jokes around the globe in the blink of an eye.

From personal experience, I have found e-mail is unsurpassed as a tool for conducting romance. You can get to know each other extremely well. The other good thing for all us worrying romantic hearts out there is that if a letter doesn't turn up you don't know, but with e-mail you can just send it again. I am not bothered what software I use. I have no great loyalty as they all seem to crash now and again and I am in no great hurry. Bar the prospect of it crashing without you having saved the memo, you can take your time and write it properly without having to start all over again. It has all the advantages of the word processor and none of the disadvantages of longhand.

Also, I think it is quite an intimate thing - after all, it is beamed straight into your desktop. You can have a reply to a letter, and keep in the same intimate time scale and thought pattern, almost as if having a conversation. It's perfect in these impatient times. You can tell them all in one go.

I got the e-mail specifically for a practical reason. By contrast, I think the Internet is rubbish and an enormous red herring. People are discovering Web sites from two years ago that have not been updated and a lot of the information is useless. I think it is a joke in that respect. And not a very good one.

Al Murray's `The Pub Landlord's Late Lock-In' is at The Improv Comedy Club, London, 24 and 31 October and 7 and 8 November. Box Office: 0171- 387 2414.

Interview by Jennifer Rodger