By Harry McCracken | Monday, February 7, 2011 at 11:43 am
In the ever-evolving world of technology, the eternal verities are few. We know that lovable Mario will always be synonymous with his employer, Nintendo. It’s certain that Apple will never release a mouse or other pointing device encumbered by two physical buttons. And there’s no question that as long as there’s an AOL, journalists will be writing AOL stories with “You’ve got…” references in the headlines.
I was reminded of this as I read articles about AOL’s acquisition of The Huffington Post. The headlines, of course, reference the “You’ve got mail!” sound clip, recorded by Elwood Edwards in 1989 and played countless billions of times since. That’s him in the photo to the right. (His dulcet tones don’t seem to be present in the current incarnation of Web-based AOL Mail, though–I get a mundane “ping!” when messages come in–anyone know whether the clip is still in use anywhere?)
I’m not sure when “You’ve got mail” and variations thereof became a byword for AOL, but the phrase and the company were symbiotic by 1998, when a certain Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movie was released. You could practically do a history of the company told entirely in “You’ve got…” headlines.
In fact, let’s try, shall we? In reverse-chronological order, starting today…
How does AOL itself feel about its unofficial-but-unavoidable tagline? You might guess that it would prefer not to be so closely associated with a phrase from its distant, dial-up past. If so, you’d guess wrong–it often makes “You’ve got…” references itself.
It even produces a daily “You’ve got…” video.
I wish AOL nothing but the best–in fact, I’m kind of rooting for it, since there’s nothing cooler than a good comeback story. But isn’t true that we already know what the headlines will say if the company should ever go bankrupt, get acquired, or otherwise cease to exist?