howardnlby Howard Stephenson
Each time I have to wait for my personal computer to re-boot, or whenever I have to re-write a document that was lost due to a computer crash, I think of Bill Gates and wonder how rich he would be if he had to pay $10 an hour for all of the lost man-hours resulting from computer glitches associated with his software.

Despite all of the wonderful things computers do, I sometimes think my PC hates me. I must confess that, like Russell Crowe in the movie, “A Beautiful Mind,” who was paranoid about life, I am paranoid about computers. I sometimes feel my PC has it in for me; that if something can go wrong, it will.

Until recently, I owned a electronic hand-held personal organizer which I thought liked me. I was convinced that I had finally overcome the problems of the paper planners of the past. I used to lose my daytimer every few months, leaving me wondering for weeks what appointments I may have missed.

My new personal organizer worked great for a while until it went crazy and scrambled all of my contacts, information and memos. Fortunately, I had backed up the data on not one, but two PCs. Unfortunately, when I went to “hot-sync” my personal organizer with the back-up versions, the back-ups were lost on both computers.

See, computers do hate me.

Despite the problems of modern electronics, businesses and individuals are relying more and more on the electronic world to simplify their lives and make them more efficient and effective. There is one area in “e-life” that is receiving increasingly more complaints: junk email, or “spam.”

Many individuals are complaining that they are receiving more than 100 junk e-mails each day, making it impossible to keep up with the volume. Multiply that by 50 employees and a business must pay for hundreds of wasted man-hours each month.

But that’s not the only cost associated with spam. When the post office delivers bulk mail, the sender has to pay for the printing and postage. This cost becomes a deterrent to indiscriminate bulk mail. But with junk e-mail the recipient, not the sender, ends up paying for most of the costs. Internet connections are charged according to the bandwidth used. That means that people sending unsolicited e-mail are doing so at significant extra cost to the recipient. As one person explained it, “It is like having a salesman enter your home without knocking and stealing money out of your wallet before leaving.”

Estimates from the European Union, which is expected to outlay spam sometime soon, estimates that unsolicited spam costs the on-line users $14 billion annually.

This year the Utah Legislature is doing something about spam. A proposal by Representative Patrice Arent would force those sending spam to identify themselves and to take those off their lists who request it. Failure to comply would result in monetary damages. The mailer would be required to provide a legal name, correct street address and give a valid domain name.

Anyone sending unsolicited advertising would have to place the letters “ADV:” at the beginning of the subject line, telling the reader that it is an advertisement. These letters would make it easier for the reader to automatically filter out spam.

While e-businesses should have legitimate advertising opportunities, including over the Internet, until the price of spam is paid by those who send it, the legislature ought to enact these protections against costly junk e-mail.