TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Emailing to a Computer-Free Zone

Emailing to a Computer-Free Zone

Monty Solomon (
Mon, 25 Dec 2006 20:02:58 -0500

By Walter S. Mossberg and Katherine Boehret

To many of us, the Internet is an essential part of our daily lives,
whether we're communicating by email, chatting via instant messaging
or surfing the Web for research or entertainment. But to some friends
and family who don't own computers or aren't comfortable going online,
the Internet can come off as a club that pulls its users closer
together while causing others to feel left out.

For the analog grandfather who wishes he could see the digital
vacation photos that everyone else in the family emails to one
another, or the beloved aunt who just can't or won't get an email
address, one company thinks it has a solution: turn emails and digital
photos into paper documents, automatically, without a computer.


This week, we tested a new service called Presto that works with a
special Hewlett-Packard printer called the Printing Mailbox. After
setup, the user is assigned a email address to which
friends and family send text emails or photos. But the owner of this
gadget doesn't need a computer, and never has to go online to retrieve
emails. The Printing Mailbox automatically and periodically dials into
the Internet using a regular phone line, retrieves all messages sent
to it -- including photos -- and prints them out.

Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Printing Mailbox costs $150. The accompanying
Presto service from Presto Services Inc. costs
about $10 monthly or $100 annually. The printer doesn't work without
Presto, making it useless if you stop the service.

The Presto plan includes optional free subscriptions to various
articles and puzzles, which print out in addition to any emails that
you receive. You set up and manage the account via a Web site accessed
from a computer, a task intended to be performed on the owner's behalf
by a friend or relative.

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