Americans used the U.S. Postal Service to send one another 7.3 billion greeting cards last year. But soon they'll be able to send cards electronically, over the Prodigy PC information service. Just in time for Mother's Day on May 10, Prodigy's 1.6 million members will be able to swap electronic greeting cards composed of animated color graphics and a choice of messages and poems. The addressee's computer will even play songs such as Happy Birthday to You or A Bicycle Built for Two. The initial choice of 50 designs covers holidays, birthdays, and friendship.

The graphical greetings will take up to 30 seconds to flash across the screen and cost from 50 cents to $4. A spokeswoman for Hallmark Cards Inc. expresses skepticism about the idea. Most people, she says, view cards as keepsakes, storing them in shoeboxes and scrapbooks. While Prodigy subscribers can print out the text, the electronic cards will disappear from their electronic mailbox after two weeks.

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