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Navigating Gopherspace Via E-Mail

Magazine article Online

Navigating Gopherspace Via E-Mail

Article excerpt

If you can send and receive Internet e-mail, the lack of a direct, interactive connection to the Net does not restrict Net surfing as much as might be expected. This month's column explores the commands needed to use GopherMail, just one of the many tools available to access various Net resources via e-mail.


Gopher resources could, until September of 1992, only be used by people with "live" connections to the Internet. That month Fred Bremmer, then at Calvin College, wrote the GopherMail program that makes most of gopherspace accessible to the millions of people with e-mail-only connectivity to the Internet.

GopherMail is a gopher client that uses electronic mail to interact with the user. GopherMail servers let e-mail users negotiate their way through gopherspace without requiring them to have an account directly on the Internet. GopherMail communicates via e-mail messages to and from the Internet instead of through a direct "live" network connection. Messages containing meanus and gopher link information are mailed to users in response to their requests. Users navigate gopherspace by successively replying to these messages, requesting specific menu items by "tagging" gopher links.


The most important "homework" to do when using Net tools via e-mail is to become proficient with the text editors or word processing software you use to send and respond to e-mail messages. If you haven't yet learned or taught yourself to precisely edit the content of your e-mail messages, then put this article aside and do that first. Unlike throwing horseshoes, "coming close" is not going to work here.

To get started using GopherMail, you will want to select your "target" GopherMail server from the list in Figure 1. Of the two GopherMail servers located in the U.S., I have relied most heavily upon the one at Calvin College since it is the "granddaddy" of all the GopherMail servers.

FIGURE 1 GopherMail Servers

(as of 7/94)

Next, there are two sources from which to choose help documents for "reading all about" GopherMail: you can either read the original help document written by the author of GopherMail; or you can keep this column handy, since it is intended as a greatly simplified explanation of using GopherMail. The original help document can be obtained as an e-mail response from sending a message with the subject of help to any target GopherMail server.


As can be seen in Figure 2, gopher menu navigation using GopherMail is a simple and fairly straightforward process, consisting of snapshot responses followed by specifying requests. When interacting with a GopherMail server, you usually first, request a snapshot of its root menu; then, based on its response, navigate your way through gopherspace with more specific additional requests from its submenus.

FIGURE 2 Gopher Menu Navigation via E-mail

Step 1

You will receive a "snapshot" (such as that shown below) of the root gopher screen for your target GopherMail server if you send an e-mail message to its address with an empty subject and an empty message body. This snapshot came from the Calvin College gopher:

Date: Fri, 10 Jun 94 19:43:19 EDT
From: gophermail@Calivin.EDU (GopherMail Server)
To: (Glee Willis)
Subject: Calvin College Gopher Server
 1.  About Calvin College.
 2.  About Calvin's KnightLine Gopher Server.
 3.  Academic Divisions/
 4.  Administrative Departments/
 5.  Calvin Student Organizations/
 6.  Campus Committees/
 7.  Campus Publications (includes phone book)/
 8.  Library Resources/
 9. … 
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