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Email Machines for Seniors

Turn virtually any old machine you have lying around the attic into an email-only appliance in a few simple steps!

Setting up any old computer as an Email Device (also called an "Email Appliance" or "Email Machine")

Though a computer may at first glance seem a complicated way to create a simple e-mail device, it provides a very simple, very cost-effective solution to creating a device dedicated only to e-mail.

We'll explain how an old junker can be transformed into a simple, single-function device and then walk you through the available e-mail only machines.

PawPawMail is our e-mail solution (which is pictured at right). We think it is the easiest e-mail available anywhere, and we designed it specifically for seniors, with large buttons and a clear typeface. If you haven't already, look around the site!

Also see why it makes a fantastic setup for an email-only machine, with virtually nothing to learn, in an interface that can be assisted by a loved one, both simplifying email and keeping an important senior in better touch with his or her friends and family.

Finally, though, if PawPawMail isn't for you, we'll give you an overview of some of the alternatives: e-mail devices and e-mail appliances currently in use by seniors.

The extraordinarily simple main screen of PawPawMail -- use it with a mouse or a touch-screen computer.

The interface is just this simple -- when reading a message, delete it, reply to it, or save it!

Turn a PC into a PawPawMail E-mail-only Device...
in Minutes!

The quick version (see below for Mac, more details):

  1. Create a Windows shortcut by right-clicking on the desktop, selecting "New", then selecting "Shortcut"
  2. Type the location of the item: (include the quotation marks!)
    "c:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" -k ""
    That's all on one line, "c:\...." -k "htt..." (just copy/paste it from above)
  3. It will ask for a shortcut name. Use "PawPawMail" (no quotes)
  4. That's it. You now have a shortcut on your desktop that launches PawPawMail in full-screen ("kiosk") mode.
  5. Have your computer boot directly into PawPawMail by dragging that shortcut into your Startup folder. Open that folder by going to your Start menu, then Programs, then click the Startup folder, or navigate directly to:
    C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Startup [note: all one line].

Technically, you could do this in just one minute if all the steps are familiar. And if this all sounds like gobbledygook, remember: this is the hardest part (suggestion: get a child to do it; it's in their blood). Finally, remember that we're here to walk you through it on our help line -- where you'll talk to an actual human.

Instructions here are the quick version for PCs running Windows 98 or later. See our detailed instructions for making an e-mail-only device from any computer in minutes (coming later this week) for more specifics on both Windows and Macintosh (Mac).

Create a windows Shortcut... (right click on desktop)

Type the following: "c:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" -k ""

Drag that shortcut into the Startup folder, and you boot straight into your new e-mail appliance, full-screen with no distractions!

Alternatives: Existing Email Devices for Seniors

Of course, we'd prefer that you use PawPawMail -- we think it's a great, cheap, accessible e-mail solution (read more!). But if we can't convince you to give your computer a quick make-over, there are still some good solutions for you. Note that we're not affiliated with these; we mention them for your convenience.

Many "e-mail only" devices have come and gone. The most popular in the early 2000s was the "MailStation", sold by Earthlink. [read more about Mailstation on Wikipedia]. It is still available in small lots via eBay and the like, but it is no longer carried by either Earthlink (its reseller) or Cidco (its manufacturer).

Only one similar device exists in active production today: the MailBug, by Landel. It accomplishes much the same goal -- it is a single-purpose machine created specifically for e-mail.

The MailBug provides an easy e-mail interface and connects via a built-in modem to a local dial-up number. You can purchase MailBug from the company itself or via vendors like Amazon. The MailBug may present some issues for seniors, however, as the screen and the font are relatively small for reading mail. The MailBug also does not display photo attachments.

A few companies have also created e-mail "gateways" -- services which translate e-mail into a simpler form.

A company called SunnyGram runs a service which prints all e-mails which come to a senior's e-mail address and sends them periodically through the U.S. Mail.

Two fax solutions are prominent: Celery, which uses an existing fax machine (or one you purchase) to receive printouts of e-mails (and allows handwritten responses to be faxed back), and Presto, which does the same thing through their own special-purpose color fax machine (purchase required).

[note: MailStation, EarthLink, MailBug, Landel, SunnyGram, Celery, and Presto are all trademarks of their respective companies]

The Mailstation 150 (by Earthlink / Cidco)

A current MailBug device (by Landel)

The "sunnygram" -- e-mail delivered through the postal system.

The "Celery" -- a fax-based solution for handwritten e-mails

Need More Information on setting up easy e-mail for seniors?

We're happy to direct you to more information on the products above, or to assist you in setting up the perfect e-mail appliance for your parent, grandparent, or just a friend who needs help getting going with e-mail.

There are some great new touch-screen models of computers out there which make life even easier for new computer users. But sometimes the best solution is the one you have sitting around in your attic -- and we're also happy to help you get someone going on hardware you already own. PawPawMail's web-based, simple e-mail system runs on just about any computer you might have.

You can learn how to turn any computer into an e-mail appliance running PawPawMail or see our general Guide to Configuring Computers for Use by Seniors

Remember that the user doesn't ever have to deal with attachments -- photos from e-mails are simply added to the photo album automatically!

PawPawMail's simple main screen -- never more than a few options on any screen so there are no special skills to learn -- just point, click, type.

Writing an e-mail is just as easy. Once you've pressed "send mail" on the main screen, just click on the person you want to write to -- the user never even needs to see an e-mail address!

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