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mail — the real kind:
technology at work.

5 clockwork..right in front of my building...the Postal Service keeps our appointment and picks up my mail...We've got to keep meeting like this!

5 clockwork..right in front of my building...the Postal Service keeps our appointment and picks up my mail...We've got to keep meeting like this!

     Think about it. Every day, the United States Postal Service delivers more than 650 million letters, cards, magazines, packages and catalogs to more than 141 million American families and businesses.

     It's a big job. It's an important job. And it's our goal to do it accurately, on time and on budget — yours and ours.

     We start with 729,000 of the most dedicated career employees in the nation. We add a liberal dose of technology to cancel stamps, sort the mail and get it ready for delivery. It sounds simple, but it's not.

     With a mail volume that's more than doubled in the last 25 years, technology has never been more important to the Postal Service. It's helped us manage costs, improve productivity and keep prices affordable. In fact, the cost of today's First-Class stamp, adjusted for inflation, is less than the 15-cent stamp of 1979.

     It all starts when you drop a letter into any one of over 300,000 street collection boxes, at any of our more than 37,000 Post Offices, or hand it to your letter carrier. From there, your mail begins its incredible journey through the world's most advanced mail-processing environment.

     First stop? State-of-the-art automated processing equipment that faces each letter in the same direction and applies your postmark to each stamp. From there, our sortation control system helps move mail to the right equipment or processing location.

     For letters, our sorting equipment reads the address, checks it against our master address list and applies a barcode identifying the Post Office that will deliver the letter and the individual carrier route that serves the address. And it does this quicker than the blink of an eye.

     And our world-class handwriting recognition program allows equipment to read the addresses on almost 85 percent of the letters we handle. Of course, not everyone earned an "A" in penmanship. So some letters need a little extra work. But we're ready for them. Our remote bar coding system captures a video image of the envelope and transmits it to a centralized, remote encoding site, often hundreds of miles away. There, operators

enter address information, and we can apply a bar code to the envelope and keep it moving through our automated processing system.

     If your letter is for local delivery, the mail is sorted and transported to the delivery Post Office. But for mail going farther, we've got to prepare it for long-distance transportation. So, before it leaves the local processing facility, mail is put into trays according to its destination. Then it passes through equipment that checks the address and assigns it to the right airline flight or surface transportation so that it gets delivered on time.

     From there, it's almost home. Once your mail gets to a processing facility serving the delivery Post Office, it gets sorted again — either to the delivery Post Office or right to the carrier route. This is where those bar codes really come in handy. Delivery-point automation takes over, reads the codes and sorts your mail into the order your letter carrier will deliver it. Quickly. Easily. Accurately.

     Similar technology does many of the same tasks for packages, larger envelopes, catalogs and magazines.

     And that's not all. We're bringing advanced technology to our mail-forwarding system, too. Even if your college roommate doesn't know you moved, we'll make sure your birthday card finds you — before it becomes a belated "Best Wishes!" So, if you've filed a change-of-address notice, we'll program that into our address database. And in many areas, when your card gets processed, our equipment will know you moved and get it to the right address. No muss. No fuss. And no delay. That's because we won't have to send your card to your old Post Office to correct the address and then forward it.

     Your mail is important to you. It's important to us. That's why the men and women of the United States Postal Service — supported by the latest and best technology — will continue to provide you with an unparalleled tradition of service. It's what we do.