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The Internet

The First Email Ever Sent 172

konsept writes "According to this article, the first email message was sent in 1971 by an engineer named Ray Tomlinson. Prior to this, you could only send messages to users on a single machine." Nice little nostalgia piece. I can't imagine a world without email, I've been using it for half my life... and I don't really have much of recollection of my days before email. Coincidence?
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The First Email Ever Sent

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I have to make a confession. I hate e-mail. I hate it with a passion. E-mail is perhaps the biggest productivity-killer invented since the water cooler. When somebody in a cubicle literally twenty feet away from me sends me an e-mail to ask a stupid question ("Are we going to lunch today?" "Is the IT build done?") I could just scream. There is a primal instinct within me that wants to grab a large club, run over there, and beat them repeatedly over the head, screaming "I'm right friggin HERE!" E-mail is wasteful, it is almost always abused, and it is virtually never valuable.

    Sure, it helps with long-distance communication and things like that, but other technologies such as IRC and even weblogs like Slashdot could do just as well. If somebody sends you an e-mail asking a question, you have to look up the information, type it all out, make sure you're replying to the right people, make sure you haven't left anybody out, and press Send. If you're unfortunate enough to be stuck with utter crap like GroupWise or Lotus Notes, there is probably at best a 80% chance that your message arrives at the intended receivers in the intended format in a speedy manner.

    People like to claim that e-mail has "revolutionized" the office. And boy, are they right. It has turned the office into a revolutionary, fetid cesspool of blind carbon-copies, attachments, and macro viruses. Within the scope of the last minute I received an e-mail informing me that a women's bathroom in a part of the building nearly a quarter of a mile a way is closed for the afternoon. How much time did I waste reading that piece of crap? Was it worth it watching Lotus Notes lock up for two minutes after I hit Delete? You're goddamned right it wasn't.

    I think the primary purpose of e-mail is to make people feel self-important. "Oooh," they croon. "Look at all the e-mail I've got, I must be important." When was the last time you saw somebody really important swooning over their huge digital dung pile of incoming e-mail? People who really are important have things to do. They get things done. People who spend hours reading and sending e-mail are accomplishing little more than creating more work for the poor, silly saps that are on the receiving end. People who worship their e-mail to the point where they only thing they know how to do is create more e-mail are a big part of the problem.

    So here's what I suggest: trying talking to somebody on the phone once. Get some exercise and stroll down to a co-worker's office and physically talk to them to discuss an idea. Face-to-face (or at least voice-to-voice) communication is nearly always more effective anyway. And stop e-mailing people. If it weren't for e-mail, tech workers could put out the equivalent of twelve hours of work in an eight hour day.
  • eMail has been around a lot longer than the PC or terminals. The mitary has had teletypes where you could send a message (email) to multiple addressees since the 1930's. I sent my first in 1964 via the AUTODIN system which used some dozen computer switches that filled rooms and via manual "torn-tape" relays in South East Asia a few years later. These systems worked by message switching (think large "packets" ), Certainly a circuit switching telex or TWX system qualifies a eMail as well. Ron
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And here I was thinking that Slashdot was supposed to be current.

    Note the URL for this article:

    March 98 !!! Wow, breaking news here guys..only 31 months old.

    The entire subject of the beginnings of ARPANET/the internet and email is covered in the (excellent) book "Where Wizards Stay Up Late : The Origins of the Internet" available from all good bookstores (Amazon link for the book is here.) [amazon.com]

    This book was published in January 1998.

    Come on /.
    Although as a Genuity employee it is gratifying to see this story here, it is hardly news.
    (FYI, BBN became GTE Internetworking, that then became Genuity)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, this is what you get through anything that gets commercialized. 20 years ago it simply wasn't a problem. People were mature enough and clued enough that they knew not to do something stupid like send advertisements through e-mail. Maybe this is what we really need to return to. A non-commercial Internet where people can communicate without fear of commercial bullshit.
  • There has recently been an article about this RPI grad in Rensselaer's magazine. (link: click here [rpi.edu]) It talks about other RPI grads and their companies that helped to, quoting the article, develop and jump-start the internet.
  • It would fill your house. Picture a VAX-780 and then multiply it by 2 or 3. Then there are the disk drives and tape drives ..

    Certainly you would not need a furnace in your house... the dec-10 would do the warming for you.

    We used to have a couple of them at Mcdonnel douglas in St. Louis running in parallel... I wonder if they still are in the 300 Building complex?
  • He was a local call for me, so everytime I got spam from him, I would call him up and bitch at him.

    Didn't do anything, but it was pretty fun.
  • Wowsers, I've had an e-mail account since 1981 which means it had existed for 10 years already.

    What scares me is that I've never known life without a computer/the internet (before it was named as such)/or e-mail. Prior to 1981 my eldest sister's husband brought home a PDP11 that connected to the SDSU's mainframe and I pretty much grew up playing that good ole text game of Star Trek. But it wasn't until Jr High that I got an e-mail account via school and also the PDP11 went bye-bye, but I got my first real computer. Apple II anyone?!?! Being 32 and spending the last 19 connected online via BBS/Online Service/Internet. Does that make me one of the first Kids of the Computer Age?
  • I wonder if anyone thought to save a copy of it? I remember seeing it at the time, and I remember how pissed off people were about it, but I had *no* idea it was going to bring about such a sea change in the Internet.

    In looking back, I'd call that message the first real sign of the commercialization of the Net -- sort of the acorn from which a mighty tree grew. Unfortunately, in this case, it was more like kudzu -- has gone EVERYWHERE in EVERYTHING and you can't get RID of the stuff. :-)

  • But he's not widely credited as the inventor because his implementation relied on punch cards. Not everyone was able to punch out their e-mail properly.

  • People might have been attracted by the web, but they stayed for email. It always has been, and continues to be, the killer app.

    People like to talk.

  • Actually, that was Pvt. Hudson, portrayed by Bill Paxton - who also delivered my favorite movie quote ever:

    Is this gonna be a stand up fight, sir, or just another bug hunt?

  • I'm afraid you're incorrect. What you describe is UUCP addressing, used by Unix machines after about '79 (+/- a couple of years; my memory is fuzzy about this because I didn't use Unix back then).

    ARPA mail (described in RFC733 and such) originally used, as an earlier poster said, a modified version of FTP. In fact the early FTP RFCs included mail xfer commands.

    As you do correctly note, HOSTS.TXT file (which was well established when I first encountered it in '80 -- it predated the uucp !-notation) contained all the host names and their aliases. There were only 10's, and then 100's of machines on the 'net, so you could fit them all and all their nicknames in the file (like AI, MIT-AI, MITAI, the machine I used the most back then). Eventually this table got too big to fit in a PDP-10 address space so aliases were purged. This was probably around the time of the DNS transition anyway (I don't remember exactly) when we appended .ARPA or .MIL to all the legacy names.

    This is all described in the RFCs.
  • I goofed up that #include... Damn HTML formatting...
    *Sigh* thats what I get for trying to get an ontopic and funny first post.

    (Yeah yeah, mod me down because you can, but you know it would be more ontopic to spam me than mod me down....)
  • To: Bob.C
    From: GCC

    int main(void)
    printf("Hello, spam!");

    return 0;

  • ...when Mosaic made the internet look pretty

    I think I missed that era completely.

  • If that envelope was a letter from her mother that you took out of the mailbox, does your carrying it over there stop it from being mail?

  • I'll buy that for a dollar. I suppose the only qualification I would have on same-machine email is that either the machine support multiple users, or the remote viewing of email. I have a hard time with the idea of "email" on a single user, single console machine.
  • What about the first spam ever sent?
  • I wonder when the first spam message was sent? Two days later?

  • Could that have been the first SPAM?

    And when was the first UCE sent?

    One can only wonder.

  • This is mentioned in "Where wizards stay up late" By Katie Hafner (et al)...

    It's an excellent read if anyone is interested in the beginnings of the internet...

  • They didn't have U's back then. They instead used the letter V. That explains why you often see buildings like "NEW YORK PVBLIC LIBRARY," etc. U was not added to keyboards until around 1983; before that time, the Y and I keys were merely 50% wider to make up for the absence of U. Of course, since this message was sent just by pressing all the keys on the top row of the keyboard, the V was not used that time.
  • ... or slashdot posts ...

    Wasn't there some law fuss over email not being acountable past a certain period of time due to it's ephmeral nature?

    I know my standard echo foo | lpr for printer tests won't go down in the history books, that's for sure...
  • telegraph is trinary it had a space character :)
  • Before email , there was Netmail. Anyone here who used FidoNet ? Ex - 2:291/1933.12

    Yep...and the local net even had a Usenet/email gateway. Toward the end, I was running my BBS (Skunk Works BBS, 1:209/263) on Linux and had fidogate (or was it some other package?) translating FidoNet traffic back to Internet-standard forms that could be handled by cnews and smail.

  • The contents of the first email were allegedly the following:

    To: bob@stanford.edu
    From: Mikeyboy@hardon.edu
    Subject: I Own You!

    Dear Bob,

    I own you and your pisky 4004 based computer.


    The second email sent was the following:

    Bcc: bob@stanford.edu, Mikeyboy@hardon.edu
    From: Ery732@aol.com
    Subject: Free! Viagra for a year!

    You received this email because you possibly signed up for it when visiting an affiliates telex site. You can unsubscribe from this mailing list by sending an email with the contents "Unsubscribe" un the Subject line to megamailinglists@fnord.com

    Since these heady days, email has gone downhill at a rapid rate, resulting in many people using MUDs to talk to their friends.
  • If only he had known the horrendous abuses most words in the english language (such as e-'commerce', e-'store', e-'toys', e-'bay') would later suffer as a result of adding that 'e' to the word 'mail'...

    eDamn him!
  • "An "electronic Post-It note" would be more accurate."

    I'm sorry, this indicates a lack of understanding of the shared nature of the computers in that day. I have email dating back to ~1983. The fact that some of it never left the machine it was written on is unimportant. Several *hundred* people used that machine at the same time.

    Is mail from one unix user to another not email? I think it is.

  • KTB:Lover, Poet, Artiste, Aesthete, Programmer.
    There is no contradiction

    You obviously really think that there is, otherwise you wouldn't have to keep re-inforcing the idea to yourself.

  • There's an interesting article about the TELEX on salon.

    http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/12/05/telex /index.html [salon.com]

  • Sometime in late 1971, a computer engineer named Ray Tomlinson sent the first e-mail message. "I sent a number of test messages to myself from one machine to the other," he recalls now. "The test messages were entirely forgettable. . . . Most likely the first message was "FIRST POST!!" or something similar."
  • The Jabber instant-messager uses this format too.

    Check it out at jabber.org
  • This is one of the most interesting articles I've seen on /. in a long time. What an incredible discovery by a most unassuming person. It sounds like Tomlinson really didn't even realize the power of what he had invented - a tool for get-rich quick schemes, pesky advertising, and diplomas for only $19.95!
  • I'm not so sure that I agree that this would be the `first' email.

    As the article said, people had been sending messages to each other for some time before he added the ability to send it from machine to machine.

    I'd personally argue that even sending a message to somebody else on the same machine (especially if they're not currently available/logged in) would count as an `email' as well. The fact that people often logged into the system remotely from various locations even makes it seem `more like the modern idea of email.'

    Still, an interesting story.

  • no.. there was a proliferation of online services well before "the internet" as a public phenomanon

    old school bbs'prodigy, compuserve, and yes american online...

    The single largest application of these services was messaging... or rather, some form of email.


  • Anyone else remember pulling shitty porn off the frogpond bbs in delaware?


  • Not sure what Marconi's first ever broadcast was, but I remember reading a lot about his first ever transatlantic transmission (from England to the U.S.) which was simply the letter "s"... baby steps, I guess.
  • No, only binary. What it comes down to is there are only two states of the sounder or key that matter: On or off. You're thinking of Morse code. Morse code is a trinary system, but it was transmitted over binary telegraph lines using time-keyed encoding.
  • Yes, Marconi got all the money and fame, but Telsa invented.
  • Who sent the first piece of spam?
  • Or, as Albert Einstein put it:
    "The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know."
  • The lack of trustworthyness and the dilution of feeling that is a result of mass e-mailing does not lend itself to mass communication, I have found.

    Well, there are solutions to this problem [sourceforge.net].

    Standard shameless plug disclaimer.

    - Sam

  • I can't remember what Marconi xmitted, but Morse sent "What hath God wrought?"Sounds more reverent and to-the-point than flowery.

  • Oh man, yeah, someone post a copy of it. Damn this is nostalgic stuff. The major usenet discussion (flame wars, etc) about it. Hearing that Cantor & Siegel had legal action against them. Thinking "WTF do I want a green card for anyway?"

    Sigh, back then the internet was a friendlier place. I rarely enter the territory of usenet these days - s/n ratio has plummeted in all my favourite groups. Scarily at least 60% of my current favourite web sites were around back then (yahoo, cricinfo, gamesdomain, etc) - although I'll admit I like some of the newer ones (google, theregister) just as much.

    And yeah, to get back on topic.. back then (94) usenet was big, the web was growing, mudding was very popular, nettrek ruled and IRC was popular.. but email was still the biggest.

  • There is a primal instinct within me that wants to grab a large club, run over there, and beat them repeatedly over the head, screaming "I'm right friggin HERE!"

    Jeez, dude... chill! Have you ever considered that all your colleagues may be emailing you instead of talking to you because they're scared of you?

    I had an officemate whose cubicle was one row over from mine, and she would ring my phone to ask me for lunch or something, even though I could hear her perfectly well if she spoke in a normal talking voice. In fact, I could get a rather bizzare stereo effect going... her phone voice in the left ear and her live voice in the right.

    And yes, we were stuck with Lotus Bloats and WinNT 4.0.

  • Many college depts I know of had whole buildings
    connected to a central computer. Email was
    fairly widely used within a single computer.
  • Video terminals were pretty rare then.
    They had to wait wait until (@1975) when there were ROMS
    cheap enough to hold an entire ascii character
    set of 5 x 7 dots, or approximately two kilobits.
    I remember a project in digital lab in the early
    70s where we stobed numerals on an oscilloscope
    which where store in eight byte registers.

  • In October 1972 Kahn organized a large, very successful demonstration of the ARPANET at the International Computer Communication Conference (ICCC). This was the first public demonstration of this new network technology to the public. It was also in 1972 that the initial "hot" application, electronic mail, was introduced. In March Ray Tomlinson at BBN wrote the basic email message send and read software, motivated by the need of the ARPANET developers for an easy coordination mechanism. In July, Roberts expanded its utility by writing the first email utility program to list, selectively read, file, forward, and respond to messages. From there email took off as the largest network application for over a decade. This was a harbinger of the kind of activity we see on the World Wide Web today, namely, the enormous growth of all kinds of "people-to-people" traffic.

    [ Source: Internet Society: "A Brief History of the Internet" [isoc.org] ]

  • "QWERTYIOP"? That's even lamer than "Come here watson, I need you." What an inauguration.

    Ah, but just imagine the reply, if it had been sent in 2001...

    From: rbolt@bbn.ARPA
    To: tomlinson
    Subject: Re: Testing

    tomlinson writes:

    Lay off the freaking CAPS LOCK key, luser, or I'll put it where you can't reach it!

    All the best,

    Well, it *might* have happend that way...

  • I second that! I have to know if this is really true - I don't quite believe it, but it sounds so darn plausible. If it was true, I'm pretty sure something like that would have been mentioned in the old Jargon File or Hackers Dictionare, and I know it isn't in there. Or wasn't, last time I read it.

    Torrey Hoffman (Azog)
  • The predecessor to the NSA line-eater bug was the NSA character-eater bug, of course.
  • Nawwww....

    The world's first email set the tone for the rest. It was the world's email first typo, and we yet to recover. (Some more than others: see rasterman.)

  • Okay, so I don't have an actual PDP-10, but if you're looking for a little bit of fun and nostalgia, there are PDP-10 emulators available. This page [trailing-edge.com] has plenty of PDP-10 software links, and a PDP-10 emulator can be found here [umtec.com].
  • You said:
    That's even lamer than "Come here watson, I need you."

    The quote was actually "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you". Bell had just spilled battery acid on himself, and was calling out for help. The phone happened to be set up correctly to work, and Watson heard the plea for help over the phone. Hence, the first phone call was a "911" call, and I can't think of anything less lame.

    My only question is whether the actual call was something more along the lines of "@$%$#@%! Watson! Get your ass in here NOW!". Those were different days, though, and a level of decorum unimagineable to us was commonplace then among certain classes of society.
  • by rjh ( 40933 )
    The problem with e-mail is the ability it gives to send many millions of e-mails to lots of people.

    That's not a problem with email (note the lack of the hyphen--Don Knuth has a good linguistic analysis of why email is hyphenless somewhere on his site), but with people abusing email. It's pretty much like saying, "the problem with cars is the ability it gives people to drink and drive".

    I can't let anyone but the most trusted members of my family know about it.

    Wow. You mean all of us here at Slashdot are trusted members of your family? Really? Free hint: just by having a address [mailto] for us Slashdotters to submit to, you undercut the very point you're trying to make.

    My own email address, posted at the top of this message, is a spambouncer. It checks email and forwards them on to my real email account, where I can decide if I want to share my email addy with you or not.

    So far, I've managed to stay (mostly) spam-free by a combination of judicious filtering and using proxy addresses.

    Other people (like this guy [mailto]) manage to do just fine, too, to the point where he has his Palm VII set up to receive wireless email from complete strangers, just because he thinks it's cool.

    (Bruce, if you're reading this: you rock. Way to be accessible to the community. I would email this to you directly, but I don't want to spam you.)

    So in other words, KTB, your "I can't let anyone but the most trusted members of my family" argument only holds water for you. There are lots of other people--ESR, BP, RMS, Linus, just to name a few--who manage to get by just fine, even though they get reams more email than you do.

    The lack of trustworthyness [sic] and the dilution of feeling that is a result of mass e-mailing does not lend itself to mass communication, I have found.

    If you're finding this, you're looking in the wrong places. Some mailing lists, such as the Continuing Time and Millennium's End lists which I'm on, are actual communities. If you think mass email is "remote", then how do you account for the vibrant BBS communities of old?

    How can you beat the handwritten letter for the personal touch?

    Try investing a little of yourself in your emails. Believe it or not, it really does work.
  • note the lack of the hyphen--Don Knuth has a good linguistic analysis of why email is hyphenless somewhere on his site
    It's here [stanford.edu]. This is actually an afterthought on a page about how Knuth quit using email entirely in 1990. Pretty interesting.

    A note on email versus e-mail

    Newly coined nonce words are often spelled with a hyphen, but the hyphen disappears when the words become widely used. For example, people used to write ``non-zero'' and ``soft-ware'' instead of ``nonzero'' and ``software''; the same trend has occurred for hundreds of other words. Thus it's high time for everybody to stop using the archaic spelling ``e-mail''. Think of how many keystrokes you will save in your lifetime if you stop now! The form ``email'' has been well established in England for several years, so I am amazed to see Americans being overly conservative in this regard. (Of course, ``email'' has been a familiar word in France much longer than in England --- but for an entirely different reason.)


  • ... that the original copy of this email will be on sale at eBay later this evening. Opening bid $25,000. Cash accepted. No fraudulent bids, please!
  • Engineering types, yes.

    After going through prototype after prototype, and fixing glitch after glitch, after long hours and late nights and nearly endless frustrations, I have a feeling that the first successful message transmitted via any medium is, "Is this goddamned thing working yet? Hello? Hello? Fuck!"

    At the official unveiling, however, the press hears you say "This miraculous new device will transform mankind" or some other PR-department hooey.


  • In fact, since he sent that email on how to use email to everyone else on the network, the first e-mail was spam. :P
    Obfuscated e-mail addresses won't stop sadistic 12-year-old ACs.
  • Al Gore send the first e-mail?

  • Is that really true?

    If it isn't, then I'm pretty impressed that you came up with it.

    If it is, that's pretty damn cool. Do you have a link to back it up?
  • Reverent, yes, but in a tooting-his-horn sort of way, i.e. "What hath God wrought through me, Samuel Morse" He knew what he was doing was important, and he felt like a great prophet or emmissary for heaven. The hacker in this story, though, just invented email and moved on to the next project....
  • I find it rather appropriate that the first email was "QWERTYIOP"... Marconi & Morse had some flowery crap about how this invention was a blessing from God akin to the gift of fire, and meanwhile the hacker, sitting alone in front of a couple computers, just banged on his keyboard to test the thing.
  • One more thing... I remember this issue coming up at a faculty lunch one day, and a few of the long-time BBN employees remarked about how they thought it was interesting they still had the same email address for almost 30 years (minus the .com part, which came a little bit later)....
  • "QWERTYIOP"? That's even lamer than "Come here watson, I need you." What an inauguration.

    And ever since, people have put about that much thought into the content of their emails...

  • Not fair. Note that the first telegraph, the first phone message, etc, are the first ones anyone knew about -- the first ones sent to another person. I'll bet that Bell had two phones hooked together in his laboratory before he sent his famous message to Watson, but no one claims that the first telephone transmission was line noise, or Bell whistling to himself.

    A more fair comparison would be the first message sent to another person. According to the article, this was a description of e-mail and how to use it. Still not an earth-shaker, granted, but not such cause for derision.

    Go ahead, blame me... I voted for Nader!
  • amazing to me how few people remember that event.

    Oh, I remember it vividly. They hit every newsgroup. Even the moderated ones! They (gasp!) forged the approval header. I remember purposefully causing huge (almost a megabyte!) core dumps so I could the files to indirect.com multiple times a day for the rest of the week.

    Angry Usenetters put that company out of business for a LONG time because of a single Usenet spam incident. Today the same thing isn't even worth a second of thought, and that is exactly why we were so upset. We all knew exactly what the internet was going to look like in a few years, and it hurt.

    p.s. I just realized what I want for Xmas -- an original Joel Furr "Green Card Lawyers" t-shirt, to match my Serdar Argic / Zumabot t-shirt.

  • I laughed very hard when I read this post. Alas, I am professionally obliged to point out that laser printers weren't invented until 12 or so years later.


  • It's a nice piece of history -- reminds you where all of this really came from. I imagine the first web page or the first encoded MP3 weren't anything great, either, but it would be interesting to know what they were. Kind of like taping up the first dollar you get when you open your restaurant or deli.
  • "Enlarge your penis by as much as 30%! Free!!"

    check out our bbs @ 555-265-4002

  • No, I'm sorry. You're wrong. I suspect a lot of people on Slashdot remember getting out of school the '80's, and being very, very suprised that some people still didn't have e-mail.

    E-mail in the 80's? I beg to differ. I would say it was very common among university students (especially computer scientists and engineers, of course) at large institutions, and industry employees at large companies, but not at all with the general public.

    E-mail really was the killer app, and a big part of the reason the net reached the density that allowed something like the web to be successful.

    Okay, I posted a little too soon. If I had read the entire article first, I would have worded things differently. However, I still stand by my original post.

    I'll grant you that E-mail was the first killer app over the internet. I would say that it seeded the information revolution. However, the thing that really launched it, and by this I mean when people who were not in the business of computers started getting internet accounts, was the world wide web.

    I'm not really that cynical. I don't think it was just porn. I think the pretty pictures on the web made the internet far more accessible to the regular person. And that was when internet usage really took off.


  • Just to register my dismay that yet another social science type avant garde Internet "user" is telling us what Internet is, has been and will be.

    Hey! That's unfair. I'm a computer scientist. I have a software development job doing UNIX development. I have a four-machine mixed Linux-Windows network at home. I have set up DNS, Web servers, E-mail and I have my gateway set up using diald and pppd with IP Masquerading.

    The "digital information revolution" didn't start when computer scientists cobbled together some components. That was the beginning of information technology, not the revolution.

    The real revolution (which I consider a social phenomenon, not a technological one) began when non-techies started getting E-mail addresses, and when non-tech companies started deciding that it's essential to get a web site.

    And non-techies only started getting E-mail addresses twenty years after the invention of E-mail. My theory (and I'm first to admit it's just a theory) addresses that long delay.

    (By the way, I avoid telnet whenever I can, in favour of ssh. But I'll admit to having never used gopher, archie, and veronica.)


  • Has Ray Tomlinson still got the source for it? I'd love to see that.
    And if anyone's got a PDP-10 they'd like to to donate so I can run it, I'd love to give it a home...
  • Nothing! I was born in 1971 and there was only a big black void before then.

  • e-mail, the application that launched the digital information revolution.

    I totally disagree with this.

    It wasn't until the early 1990s, when the world wide web appeared, that the internet gained popular usage. My theory is that it was when Mosaic made the internet look pretty, that the general public took notice.

    Duh. It wasn't e-mail, it wasn't the Web.

    It was telnet.

    Look at the RFCs. Before the WWW, telnet and proposed extensions to telnet comprised the majority of RFCs.

    Just about every TCP service can be negotiated through a telnet connection to the applicable port.

    Not to mention the utility of telnet: I'm here and my computer is there...


    There could be the same room or another continent. That's (telnet|ssh).

    One of the climactic points of Neal Stephenson's novel Cryptonomicon has Randy Waterhouse sitting on the roof of his car and opening a chain of telnet connections from his laptop to Kinakuta, to laundry.org, and to the Ordo building across the street, 20,000 miles to nuke a disk drive 200' away. Not e-mail, not ftp, not the Web. Telnet.

    E-mail will always be a channel for trivial information. Important things always warrant a phone call, a visit, a telex or telegram, a registered letter, a FedEx, or a process server. E-mail is a notch below fax, even.

    Telnet. That's my choice for killer app.

    Maj. Kong, USAF (Ret.)

  • You mean Scumbag San Khuri from Benchmark Print Supply? He got slapped silly with a couple of lawsuits. One of them from Europe. Currently, he's under a restraining order from sending spam ever again. Deja article here [deja.com]
  • PriceLine just spammed me for the first time. I've had an account for over one year and this was the first time they decided to ignore my request for no spam.

    Ironically, it's for redherring.com:

    provide unmatched depth of analysis and insider perspective on how technology business news, IPOs, and market trends affect you, your company, the economy, and your portfolio.

    Wm Shatner has decided to leave Priceline (PCLN) [yahoo.com] and their stock has been worth under $2 a couple for a couple days, the year high being 104¼ in march. Sad to see, I always thought they provided good service. Now they're so desperate they're apparently spamming for revenue.


  • I can't remember - what came before email?
  • "Email" = "Electronic mail"

    How does electronic mail exchanged between users of a single machine disqualify it from being email?

    Because mail is delivered to the recipient. No delivery involved here.

    It's still electronic mail!

    An "electronic Post-It note" would be more accurate.

  • this old news...?

  • by Thalia ( 42305 ) on Thursday December 14, 2000 @01:57PM (#558142)
    E-mail is a much less formal/traditional method of communication than the other examples provided by the authors of this story. This is borne out by the original messages sent.

    The first message sent by telegram -- used to communicate only emergency and important messages -- was "What hath god wrought!" The first message sent by telephone -- used for quick person-to-person communication -- was "Mr. Watson, come here; I want you." The first message sent by email -- used to send garbage messages in circles -- was QWERTIOP. I think that says it all.

  • by Get Behind the Mule ( 61986 ) on Thursday December 14, 2000 @03:45PM (#558143)
    The article closes out with a musing about whether pioniers of the Internet like Tomlinson will go down in history with inventors like Morse, Marconi and Bell.

    Now I frankly think that Tomlinson is not destined for many history books, and moreover that many of the ARPANET engineers will never become known as heroes the way Morse & co. are, but I think it was quite appropriate when the death of Jon Postel two years ago precipitated a wave of mourning throughout the Internet. To be sure, most Internet users never heard of him, not to mention the general public, but if you have any familiarity at all with the Internet's ascendancy, you'll know that Postel's contributions were crucial to its current success. Domain names, IP addressing, many of the basic TCP services such as chargen and echo, the Telnet protocol, FTP reply codes, the MIME standard -- Postel had a hand in developing numerous basic building blocks that now make up our everyday networking life.

    Try searching [rfc-editor.org] for the author name Postel among the RFC's -- you get 232 hits. And I daresay that RFC authorship is a good deal more significant than authorship of a program like SENDMSG, since it's the open standards that made the Internet's success possible.

    The Internet society has a page about him here [isoc.org].
  • by seanmeister ( 156224 ) on Thursday December 14, 2000 @02:11PM (#558144)
    According to this article, the first email message was sent in 1971 by an engineer named Ray Tomlinson. Prior to this, you could only send messages to users on a single machine

    "Email" = "Electronic mail"

    How does electronic mail exchanged between users of a single machine disqualify it from being email? It's still electronic mail!

    Any takers?


  • by BluedemonX ( 198949 ) on Thursday December 14, 2000 @01:56PM (#558145)
    Before email, people tended to use the TELEPHONE to send messages back and forward. This was an appliance that allowed voice to voice communications over a limited protocol using (at its latest version) typically a seven digit address.

    Previous to that, they would send messages via a binary transmission device called a TELEGRAPH that sent information in an encoded format called Morse.

    Previous to this, a similar mode of transmission was required which used a waxed string and two aluminium "cans".

    Previous to this, people wrote the information on a flat media such as paper or vellum with ink or graphite in a stylus configuration, and then gave it to a messenger of some kind to relay said message to the recipient.

    Previous to this, it was incumbent to transmit the information via speech, but this mode of communication was primitive and limited inasmuch as attachments were impossible, and you were required to be at a limited distance from the recipient (a variable distance called earshot depending on the configuration of the recipient).

    Other protocols were used - namely trasmitting information by binary flashes of light, using flags in differing configurations, sending plumes of smoke....
  • e-mail, the application that launched the digital information revolution.

    I totally disagree with this.

    It wasn't until the early 1990s, when the world wide web appeared, that the internet gained popular usage. My theory is that it was when Mosaic made the internet look pretty, that the general public took notice.

    Or I could be a bit more cynical and say that it was when people discovered they could browse pornographic pictures on the net, that it gained popular usage.

    E-mail was the second most important application that launched the digital information revolution. It was only after people started using the web that they realized that there was this amazingly useful thing called E-mail.


  • by djocyko ( 214429 ) on Thursday December 14, 2000 @05:01PM (#558147)
    It is perfectly obvious the first email said:


    of course, it was automatically modded down by 50 people in its first 5 econds of existence...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 14, 2000 @02:36PM (#558148)
    stanford.edu? As if.

    Originally, every computer on the Arpanet had one single name, and, before smart routers entered the seen, a person had to enter a bang-path listing every hop to get to the destination:

    For example...


    Later, with real routers around, every computer simply maintained a list of the network address of every other computer in a flat text file -- simple, eh?

    Then, when DNS was introduced, every host had the .arpa TLD, with .mil being added shortly later. TLDs as we know it didn't come into existence until much later.
  • by Kiwi ( 5214 ) on Thursday December 14, 2000 @01:59PM (#558149) Homepage Journal
    The first spam message of significance was the "Cantor and Siegal" green card spam of 1994. This, notably, was not a piece of Email spam, but was ap piece of Usenet spam.

    Now, it is true that "MAKE.MONEY.FAST" was around before the Green Card spam. However, that was something ignorant college students would send to each other, and it did not have corporate backing. It is also true that people would occasionally post to every single Usenet newsgroup before the C&S spam, but such people were not doing this to try to advertise their product.

    Before email spammers starting harvesting email address from Usenet, there was a book out called the "Internet White Pages", which had the email addresses of people on the internet, obtained from Usenet postings. I was glad to be in the 1994 Internet White Pages, and was hoping to be in the 1995 internet white pages.

    Then the spammers came and changed all that.

    - Sam

  • At the end of the article, Tomlinson expresses what I consider the ideal geek attitude:

    "I am curious to find out if I am wrong."

    Words to live by!
  • by rho ( 6063 ) on Thursday December 14, 2000 @03:08PM (#558151) Homepage Journal

    Email is still the killer app. What launched our current Info-economy was the rise of ISPs, not the Web. The Web helped bring people in, no doubt, but they stayed because of email, not some kid's "Welcome to my Home page on The wWeb" Geocities site, complete with BLINK tags and a poorly captured QuickCam image of his cat.

  • by bughunter ( 10093 ) <bughunter@@@earthlink...net> on Thursday December 14, 2000 @03:01PM (#558152) Journal
    The first spam message [in] 1994... was ap piece of Usenet spam.

    And it's amazing to me how few people remember that event. At the time, it sent paroxysms of fear and loathing thru Usenet. And they were justified. With the exception of a few moderated groups, and some alt groups that rabidly protect their turf from spammers, Usenet is a wasteland of spam.

    And at the time, the term 'spam' meant something completely different: an email denial of service attack, executed by sending the same message over and over and over again to the victim's inbox. Thus the reason the word was borrowed from the Monty Python's Flying Circus skit.

  • by bughunter ( 10093 ) <bughunter@@@earthlink...net> on Thursday December 14, 2000 @02:32PM (#558153) Journal
    "One of the advantages of the message systems over letter mail was that... one could write tersely and type imperfectly...and the recipient took no offense... one could proceed immediately to the point without having to engage in small talk first..."

    In other words, Email was so immensely popular and rapidly adopted among electrical and computer engineers precisely because they could communicate without having to engage in any social engineering whatsoever, or encounter another human being in any direct manner. How so typically engineer-like, in restrospect!

  • by Maniacal ( 12626 ) on Thursday December 14, 2000 @01:45PM (#558154)
    A few minutes ago I sent the 42556854215548765th e-mail ever sent.

    I'm erecting a statue in my honor.

  • by Teferi ( 16171 ) <{teferi} {at} {wmute.net}> on Thursday December 14, 2000 @02:01PM (#558155) Homepage
    > Previous to this, a similar mode of transmission was required which used a waxed string and two aluminium "cans".

    Australia still uses this method for connecting to the internet, actually. :P

    "If ignorance is bliss, may I never be happy.
  • by feldy ( 71897 ) on Thursday December 14, 2000 @02:54PM (#558156)
    I interned up at BBN this summer, and although I never got a chance to meet Tomlinson, I have a friend, still at BBN, who works in the same dept. as Ray, and had this to say about him...

    Yeah, it's kinda funny how Ray did that -- I've talked to him a couple
    times about it.

    Basically he took an existing FTP-like program and wrote the email service
    around it. He wasn't exactly "authorized" to code it up (i.e. no job
    number), and as usual BBN didn't capitalize on the invention (i.e. no
    big $$$s). He had pretty much forgotten about somebody tracked it down
    around when the web started getting big ('93 or so). All the sudden
    people got interested in the history of email -- what was the first email,

    The first email was either "QWERTY" or "12345" or such; just a debugging
    test that Ray has completely forgotten. People get all excited, like
    it was "That's one small step for [a] man, ...", but the first email
    wasn't nearly as poetic.

    Also, it's quite possible that the "@" key on the keyboard might have been
    lost without email, like the cent key (""). At the time I don't think
    it's placement was standardized, and without email it's hardly used by
    most people. Businesses might use it (e.g. "10 apples @ 5 cents each"),
    but more likely they need the copyright symbol ("©"). Anyways, another
    funny implication.

    BTW, he insists the correct way to write email is "email", not "e-mail".

    Rays' glory includes being listed as a "PBS Nerd":
    http://www.pbs.org/opb/nerds2.0.1/cast/page6.html [pbs.org]
    There's a picture there in case you didn't get a chance to meet him.

  • by gallir ( 171727 ) on Thursday December 14, 2000 @02:30PM (#558157) Homepage
    Old PDPs keyboards had problems with the keyboard which affected to the most frequently keys. At that time keyboards were used mainly for writing Multic technical reports, obscure long shell commands (see www.multicians.org) and programs in rare PLI-like languages which overused the "u" (MUltics, procedUre, modUle, sUbmodUle, Use, sUbset, checkoUt, bUlletins, etc).

    Due to the systematic problems with the U key, Unix developers have avoided its use. For that reason, most of the primitive Unix commands and C keywords did not use U:
    cat, ed, vi, emac, find, grep, w, ls, awk, sh, login, rm, ar, cc, sed, sort, cp, dd, df, ex, pwd, man, whatis...

    While the U was reserved for infrequent and administrative commands (the overuse of "U" in those command was intended to deter their use to non-experimented users):
    su, du, mount, umount, unlink, uname, update, setup, quota, uucp, uucico, uuname, uulog, uustat, uuto, uux, dump, shutdown, showmount, route, cu...


  • by Daemosthenes ( 199490 ) on Thursday December 14, 2000 @01:46PM (#558158)
    And with the discovery of this first email message, the shocking truth has been revealed:

    The first email ever was, of course, an advertisement for cheap printer toner.

    47.5% Slashdot Pure(52.5% Corrupt)
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Thursday December 14, 2000 @02:33PM (#558159) Homepage Journal
    Make money by marketing to people through email!!

    Our 800 BPI 9 track tape includes 1 email address!

    Call 1-800-555-1212 for information
    We accept Bank Americard and Master Charge


There's no such thing as a free lunch. -- Milton Friendman