I had a Rocketmail account in 1996 - was driving across Africa at the time and the only way I could get correspondence was by telling people to write to me at "Poste Restante, Accra, Ghana" etc. - in one of those letters my flatmate told be about this new fangled webmail thingy and that he'd set me up an address, unfortunately misspelling my name - but it was so useful I stuck with it for years.
Instead of driving to a prearranged post office every three months and showing my passport to collect mail, I could go to an internet cafe (which existed even in west africa in 1996) and message friends and family. It was nothing short of a miracle.
A few years later a friend did the same trip and he just took his mobile - he had coverage across pretty much the whole continent.