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This term first appeared more than 50 years ago for a method of microfilming US forces mail to and from home to cut down shipping costs (the V stood then for “victory”). It’s also been used much more recently, again mainly in the USA, as an abbreviation for voice mail. Its most recent incarnation is as a short form of video mail, the video equivalent of e-mail. Though it has been around in experimental conditions for some time, the term itself seems to be no more than a couple of years old. V-mail is only very slowly becoming a practical proposition, because until recently the size of video clips made it impracticable to use them in Internet messages and there was no simple way to record and edit them. But now software is becoming available that permits video clips to be created and viewed and then compressed to ease transmission. Industry pundits are predicting that within a few years it will be as common to see e-mail messages with video attached as it is now to get them with sounds or still pictures. But even with compression, a one-minute video clip takes up about a megabyte, and information technologists worry that the introduction of v-mail will be yet another strain on the data-carrying capacity of the Internet. We shall also have to decide how to spell it: the term is currently going through the same stages as e-mail, with and without an initial capital V or a hyphen.

Sending short video messages by e-mail — dubbed v-mail — is to become a lot easier, thanks to a $99 system from Philips of the Netherlands.

New Scientist, Nov. 1998

A V-Mail takes megabytes to convey a message that could travel as a kilobyte of text.

Personal Computer World, Mar. 1999

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Page created 24 Apr 1999; Last updated 01 May 1999