A few weeks ago, my trippees and I returned to modern civilization after living in the woods like cavemen for five days. After having a heartfelt reunion with my contraband cell phone and taking an extra long hot shower that no doubt drowned a few polar bears, I went on my computer to download that e-mail software everyone kept talking about.
Upon opening the program, however, I came across a sight so archaic that it was as if I had been transported back to the caveman’s world again.
For a Gmail user accustomed to colorful, themed backgrounds that change with the weather and time of day, Blitzmail’s excessively bland screen took some getting used to, as did the maze involved with simply sending or deleting a message. Blitz also lacks many of the features that are commonplace among modern e-mail clients. There is no way of starring important messages or color-coding e-mails, and the search function is rudimentary, at best. There is no built-in instant messaging system or calendar, either.
Yet, despite all this, many at the College seem to have an undying love for the program. When talks of replacing Blitzmail with a more modern e-mail system arose, there was significant negative reaction, and now the administration has put the plan on indefinite hold (“Blitzmail replacement delayed,” Sept. 25).
Logically, delaying the upgrade of Blitzmail makes little sense. If anything, a significant update is long past due. Blitz was developed over 20 years ago, and has changed very little since. Sure, many aspects of Blitz, like the Dartmouth Name Directory, the bulletins, the ability to use nicknames and the speedy message delivery, were revolutionary at the time and are still quite useful today. All of the potential replacement e-mail clients, however, are capable of doing all that, and much more (“Blitz to be replaced by end of 2010,” April 29).
It seems that the real reason behind most students’ reluctance to replace Blitz is because of something that many at the College hold quite dearly: tradition. As much as DOC trips, Winter Carnival and Friday night fraternity parties, Blitzmail has become a staple of campus life.The word “blitz” has replaced the word “e-mail” in our vocabularies, and even the notorious blitz wars are something that many secretly value deeply. For the most part, it is vital that we work to maintain the unique traditions that forge our school’s identity. But there comes a time when outdated traditions have to be let go, and that time has come for Blitz.
Granted, a freshman who has only been on campus for a few weeks has yet to truly appreciate and understand the traditions of this historic college. But that may not necessarily be a bad thing. In the case of Blitzmail, it seems that tradition has blinded many students to the numerous limitations of the program. Blitz has become so ingrained in the Dartmouth experience that many develop an irrational support for it. It sometimes takes a newcomer to realize that when all the logical reasons point to moving on to a newer e-mail client, then it really is time to move on.
There is also an inherent distinction between Blitz and many of the other traditions on campus. Blitzmail is a technology, and the natural course of technology is one of progress and constant improvement. While some traditions can remain unaltered for decades and still be relevant and appropriate, technology especially computer software becomes highly outdated if it is not updated every few years. Being over 20 years old, Blitz is prehistoric in the computer world.
While many of the College’s strong traditions are quite admirable, Dartmouth’s commitment to this particular, archaic tradition makes it appear backwards and almost reactionary. With change being a defining characteristic of any technology, efforts to improve the College’s e-mail system should not be hampered.
It’s a fine line between preserving traditions and impeding progress. At a school where tradition is held in such high esteem, it is important not to become too bogged down with the old ways. If common sense deems that change is necessary, tradition should not be used as an excuse to prevent it. After all, if our ancestors had refused to let go of any of their traditions, our lives as cavemen would not be limited to DOC Trips.