Take a look at MailChimp. They allow up to 2000 subscribers and a total of 12,000 emails per month on a free personal account.
They do make sure, however, that you aren't spamming and your mailings comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. So be sure to read their rules about how to populate your mailing lists. Anybody you're e-mailing will need to opt-in after being queried.
It is possible and easy to do a shotgun mass mailing via SMTP running from your own PC. Unfortunately (or fortunately) most major ISPs won't allow you to do that because of widespread abuses. Most now require you to send via their own SMTP servers - and will shut you off if you send too many emails a month - or too many at one time.
And as you noted, doing it that way is also a good way to get robo-blacklisted even if you aren't spamming.
I'd try MailChimp. They offer a great service and also have several informational booklets about all aspects of list emailing you can download for free. Worth a look.