North Slope Borough officials and personnel are currently using an online electronic mail system in which printed messages are sent over existing telephone lines. Using the ONTYME message and memo system, they have found that electronic mail is one-third the cost of telephone messages and less than one-half the cost of telex, even for international transmissions.
Those utilizing the system claim that even with the use of existing telephone lines, electronic mail has exciting possibilities for Arctic use. Messages entered into the system are delivered instantly and stores in a computer in Cupertino, California. Whenever the recipient “signs on” the system, he is notified that messages are waiting for him. Unlike the telephone system, electronic mail holds the messages until it is convenient for the recipient to read them.
The recipient can then read the message, store it in a personal file, edit it, or re-sent it along to other users.
To send a message, one merely types the message and then enters the command, “:SEND” along with the identification names of the recipient or recipients. The message can be sent as easily to multiple users as to one.
The NSB electronic mail system also makes use of “public files” which all users may access and read. The articles of the current Arctic Policy Review are available on these public files. One advantage to Alaska users is that one may access the system through toll-free numbers in Anchorage and Juneau, making costs uniform for all users throughout the state.
ONTYME is a service of TYMNET, the world’s largest and most intelligent public communication system. It is easily accessed from most countries of the world. NSB correspondents throughout Alaska are already connected, along with others in Canada. ICC officials in Greenland are now making preparations to join the system. Tymnet is a subsidiary of Tymshare, a giant computer timesharing company. Tymnet makes use of the sophisticated “packet-switching” technology which was developed by Rand Corporation and the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) as a means of networking communications between computers.
Equipment to access the system is relatively inexpensive. Communicating terminals are available now for $700 U.S. and coming down in price. Throughout the U.S. and in other countries, terminals can be leased through the local telephone company. ONTYME is easily accessed from outside the U.S. through the data communications service of the respective country.
There is a nominal monthly charge for use of the system, plus the cost of actual message transmission. Those interested in using the system should contact the system manager, Bill DuBay, 4221 Warwick Drive, Anchorage, AK 99504. Phone: (907) 279-3349.