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Happy Birthday! Email Is 30 Years Old 383

pgrote writes: "Happy Birthday Email! It turns 30 and Yahoo! News has an article here. Of course, they have the @ sign listed as a + sign. There is an interesting look at the history here. Two neat things about this: 1) The creator can't remember the first message, but he knows it was in ALL CAPS and 2) Can you imagine your life without email now?"
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Happy Birthday! Email Is 30 Years Old

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  • Email. (Score:2, Funny)

    by gmanske ( 312125 )
    I can't imagine life without email now, although I'd like to imagine it without spam.

    Happy birthday email!

  • but it sure feels more like 50-55.
  • by Hangtime ( 19526 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @09:43PM (#2376564) Homepage
    Before email I never knew there were so many women interested in showing me their tata's with such snappy come-ons as "We are all 18....and horny!" Who would ever have thought it! Me of all people would have women fawning over me like that and all thanks to email!

  • Yeah. And it's not pretty. I like having my spam condensed (mostly) into nice, easily deletable, chunks in my inbox. Telemarketers and junk mail are much harder to get rid of. Junk mail must be thrown away, and I'm a busy guy, ya know? Telemarketers have a knack for calling JUST in the middle of dinner. Email is perfect for consolidating the load. Thanks!

    Please note that was a (bad?) attempt at a joke. I don't need to modded down as troll.
  • Who would have imagined 30 years ago, the amount of SPAM email that gets sent now, and if they did what would they have changed to stop it!
  • First email (Score:5, Funny)

    by Defender2000 ( 177459 ) <> on Monday October 01, 2001 @09:44PM (#2376571) Journal
    I bet the subject was "MAKE MONEY FAST"

    • by Quizme2000 ( 323961 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @10:06PM (#2376659) Homepage Journal
      Mine was..."TEST:Contact the administrator if you did not get this message".

      Technology will always be embraced by idiots and burden geniuses.

      • Before Email (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @12:02AM (#2376989) Journal
        Of course, before email similar functions were (and Still are!) performed by Telex. There is a fascinating history of Telex here []

        Telex sprang from the same source as the Volkswagen automobile: The creative growth era of the early Third Reich. It was devised as a means of distributed military command and control messages and data in a time before we eve had a structure for data processing machinery. What existed at that point in time was 455 bps Baud automatic telegraph and dial-using telephone exchanges. The original Telex was essentially (director-controlled; yes, the Europeans were doing hat then) rotary telephone switches modified to carry DC telegraph lines, providing a switched service for teletypewriters in the same way as was done for telephones.

        There is even a brief discussion on how to access telex from your email.

        • Just found the link.

          This is all discussed in all the geekish detail you could ever want in the Telecom Digest [], a eighteen (18!) year archive of discussion about telecom technology.

          TELECOM Digest was founded in August, 1981, by Jon Solomon. It has been published continuously since that time. The location has changed over the years. It has been published at MIT, at Boston University, at Rutgers, and for about six years (since 1989) at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. We are back at MIT as of November, 1995.

          TELECOM Digest is distributed on several networks: In addition to the mailing list, the Digest appears on Usenet as the 'comp.dcom.telecom' (moderated) news group.

  • all caps (Score:1, Redundant)

    that's funny, I get lots of messages in ALL CAPS that I can't seem to recall. But I do know the gist was something like:

  • Random thoughts (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by solendril ( 415296 )
    Ah, the beauty of email lies in its wonderful flexability and ease of use. No dead trees and no stamps. It's just as easy to send a 1,000 line message as a 5 line one. Our only job now is to make sure that it stays out of the evil hands of the United States Postal Service...
  • The article mentions that the first email message was possibly QWERTYUIOP

    Was the second one Make Money Fast! with QWERTYUIOP! ?

  • by Peyna ( 14792 )
    Wouldn't be much different, I'd just be on the phone alot more, and have alot more paper notes lying around. It's not like it is the only source of communication in the world. Try imagining life without electricity. I wouldn't put e-mail even in the top 100 of the "inventions" list, even if it is/isn't an invention...
  • Not even the creator remembered the exact day when this happened. It was only a vague "autumn of 1971". Can someone make a suggestion to Mr. Tomlinson to set a date so that people can celebrate more easily, when it turns 50?
  • One question... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Omerna ( 241397 ) <> on Monday October 01, 2001 @09:47PM (#2376582) Homepage
    Was it intended to be named:

    b)E Mail

    I'd honestly like to know what the original intent was... and no, electronic mail doesn't count. (why? my post, my rules)
    • The spelling I always remember from the early nineties was "e-mail." The lowercase "e" may have more to say about the hackers involved then the intended form. It's not like grammer matters too much to the people on IRC...
    • I wish they'd just make it "email" and be done with it. It takes the least key strokes. ;-)
    • I've always preferred the look of "e-Mail" since it aesthetically looks pleasing (to me) and de-emphasizes the "E" without completely disassociating it from 'mail'. The article on uses all lower case 'e-mail'. So does the body of the Yahoo article... but the Yahoo article title uses "E-Mail" as if following standard title capitalization rules. It doesn't even occur to me that there would be any technical reasons to choose one over another, I'm sure it's purely style.
    • Knuth (Score:5, Informative)

      by srichman ( 231122 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @10:36PM (#2376759)
      Don Knuth weighs in on this at the bottom of this page [].
      • Drop the e. Why bother calling it email, when it should be looked on as mail like any other post? The sooner people stop thinking of their personal correspondence by computer as something different, new and disposable, the sooner they will demand privacy for their mail.

        What's in a name? Lots!

    • I have a relative who will go nameless who insisted on typing it "eMail."

      Always threw me off.

      me, I do email.
    • Was it intended to be named:

      b)E Mail

      i've no idea what they originally called it, but the difference in those choices is just a natural progression of our language. when a word like that is introduced to our culture, it's originally separated by a space, then the space becomes a hyphen, then the separation disappears altogether. so in common use, it went:

      e mail -> e-mail -> email

      i suppose capitalization goes away as time goes by, too, but that wasn't covered in my linguistics elective.

  • First EMail account? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zalgon 26 McGee ( 101431 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @09:48PM (#2376586)
    Mine was on the Pig & Whistle BBS in Montreal (684-0282, I think it was), back in 1987.

    Running on an Atari 800xl, maxed out with 256k RAM plus four full floppies (180K each), all hooked to the net with a blazing fast 1200 baud modem. I was limited to my puny little 300 baud.

    ...And then came Fido...
    • heh... my first email account was assigned as part of my job with Forestry Canada in S. Ste Marie, ON (1989). I had my own (graphics-capable!) terminal on the VAX and everything.

      Better yet - a buddy in Comp. Sci. back at campus told me about a Faculty of Science unix box through which I could gain access to the magical wonderland of Usenet. He coached me on how to ask for an account ("I'd like to learn Unix, please") and what NOT to say ("I'd like to hog bandwidth in my attempt to read everything ever posted to Usenet").

      Sure 'nuff, the admin gave me a shell account and told me how to get a dialup account. Ahh, the world was at my fingertips. And my grades were somewhere around my shoes ;)
    • I was not as early. People were amazed at my 2400 baud modem, though.

      It was 1992, and I was connected through a free FidoNet-connected BBS in Louisville, KY (called TSCOPE for anyone from the area). We could get Internet email accounts and a very limited Usenet feed.

      The SysOp of TSCOPE actually became a friend of mine (local BBS gatherings - those were great fun). The BBS was run on two phone lines connected to a 286.

      I was running my 2400 baud modem off of an Apple //gs with 1meg RAM, no hard drive, running at 2.8 mHz.

      I remember reading about the Waco comings and going online. Significantly different coverage (for better or worse) than the Trade Center coverage.
    • 256K of RAM? 640K is all you'll ever need, so you're pretty well-off! ;-)
    • 1974 at MITAI.
      However, my 1976 account STILL WORKS,
      although you have to attach a domain to it.
      • 1974 at MITAI.

        You got me beat (first time on Slashdot, BTW - congrats... I was never the first on usenet "remember when..." threads). My first mail account was on some big system in 1979. My first BBS was in 1981... an Apple ][+ with four disk drives giving a total storage of 400K. One was the BBS software and DOS, one was mail and messages, and two were seperate file areas.

        Anybody else remember "bang paths"? (although I never called them that until they were obsolete... they were just "how you get to the server").


  • new? old? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RudeDude ( 672 )
    And yet I sitll hear people talk about this as a "new" technology. Human perception is such a tricky thing. I'm personally glad it has become mainstream. Even with the curse of SPAM it still has a world of uses that are worth while. Now we just have to hope the Internet as a whole isn't just a 'fad'. ;)
  • if that little baby was never born???

    We'd never know that "I Love You" ;-)

    We'd probably have a new 'Outlook'!

    Ahh.. I think I could do without that crap anyway.....

    Just think in all that time the RFC are still not implemented with any security in mind.

    blah blah blah....



  • They say that the internet takes people away from real interaction, but I have found it to be the opposite.

    For example, I met a Brazilian woman in a chat room, and, after months of sending hundreds of e-mail messages and then talking on the telephone, I went to Brazil and lived with her family while she taught me Portuguese.

    Without e-mail, I would have had much less connection with Brazilians.

    What should be the Response to Violence? []
  • And, the top-of-the-line modem connection at the time operated at a snail-like 300 baud, roughly one-twentieth of the speed of today's standard 56.6 kbps modem.

    What percentage of dial-up accounts hit 56.6? In my experience the phone lines will rarely support anything over 33.6 or even as low as 28.8. Just because the modem is rated for 56.6 doesn't mean it is practicly standard.

  • Email rocks! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @09:55PM (#2376612)

    I personally believe email is the killer app of the Internet. Sure, there's other stuff, like news, chat and, recently, the web, but I think email is what made it all happen. If there never was email, I think the whole Internet thing wouldn't have taken off at all. Yeah, people give credit for the recent take off to the world wide web, but I'm talking about the Internet getting to the stage it was in when the web was invented. Oh well... All I'm saying is, email rocks!

    • I think the new killer app has become Instant Messagine (ala yahoo, msn, aol, icq, etc.) I know that email has it's history but I know I use IM much more than email. Plus I get much less spam through it, none! ICQ has it's spam problems and AOL has it's own, but it pales in comparison. I can't be the only one who sees it this way. Large number theory is behind me on this one. Maybe I just like instant gratification =)
      • IMs are at least 10 years old already. CMU had Zephyrgrams when I was at college, and I think that had been around a little while then.

        IM as implemented by ICQ or Yahoo only really serves to have strangers interrupt me with incoherent junk rather than merely fill my mailbox with it. If only IM clients has as much brains as some mail clients do.
        • "IMs are at least 10 years old already."

          a bit older than that, i'd imagine. from write(1):

          A write command appeared in Version 1 AT&T UNIX.
          • I thought about that as I pressed submit :)

            I meant GUI IMs when I said 10 years, or at least ones that don't screw up your terminal window while you are trying to work. write(1) and talk(1) don't play friendly with fullscreen apps, and annoyingly don't work that well with multiple logins (e.g. screen or xterms), either.

            I miss talk, and the days when a user community was around the machine - personal unix has killed a lot of that, leaving things like IMs and slashdot to fill the void.
  • by Water Paradox ( 231902 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @09:58PM (#2376620) Homepage
    Started using e-mail in 1988, when it was 'bout half as old. I remember trying to explain to people what e-mail was. It was one of the great lessons of my life, because people looked at you dumbly, no matter how eloquently or simply you described the process.

    Then one day, it "caught on." It had reached the media, and enough people knew how it worked that suddenly everyone seemed to know how it worked. As a geek, I didn't spend half an hour explaining e-mail anymore. I got right down to the nuts and bolts of showing people how to use it.

    We used BITNET, back then...

    • Ahh yes.. BITNet. Back in the days when sending a full Byte through ByteNet could literally cost you an arm and a leg (aging process isn't nice on the body).
    • Hell, back in the late 80s and early 90s they used to have the "@-Party" at the World Science Fiction Convention. All you needed was an e-mail address to get in. Even at this convocation of self-selected, very geeky people filling several hotels, all the "internet people" were able to party in one hotel suite. I remember meeting Cliff Stoll (before he went all curmugonly) and ESR was hawking his fresh-off-the-press "The New Hacker's Dictionary".

      Someone even put instructions on how to crash the @-Party on one of the (physical) bulletin boards. They had printed things like "" and people came up to the door claiming that their e-mail address was They didn't get in.

  • Well, duh. There's only one thing the first message could have been...


  • the new yardstick (Score:5, Informative)

    by digitalmuse ( 147154 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @09:59PM (#2376630)
    hmmm, e-mail is older than I am (26yrs). and I measure myself through the things I've seen. I remember Ronald Regan as a very young child. I recall my parent's last throes of back-to-the-land/cold-war self-sufficency. I was astounded as the first Space Shuttle launch took us around the earth and flew us back home on wings. I was glued to the TVs when the Challenger exploded. I was there when faxes were pasted hourly on the walls of Boston's china-town as Tienamen square unfolded.
    I lost friends in an act of terrorism that the world had never seen before, or even believed possible outside of cheap paperback fiction.
    I have done all these things at a distance, I have made friends and effected change on continents that I may never visit.
    I have dipped my toes in the greater waters of mankind.
    All this in less than 30 years.

    How will my children look back when they are my age?
    Will they remember a world before the arrival of the meta-verse that allows them to interact around the world, regardless of language, race, time, or class?
    Will they look back with sepia-toned memories of the good-old days before corporate structures replaced government?
    Might they think of us with scorn, as those who poisoned the earth and water that they inherited?
    Or will they think of us as the generation that first tasted this fruit of true communication, and were alternately torn and brought together by it.
    pioneers in a digital age where the hot metal was still fluid and a maleable medium, filling gaps and voids in the mold of society.
    what will someone say about us in 30 years.
    what do we want to leave as our legacy for our children,
    food for thought.
    • by NonSequor ( 230139 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @10:51PM (#2376821) Journal
      How can you be 26 and remember Ronald Reagan as a very young child?
    • In less than 70 years, one persons lifetime, we went from the first airplane to Apollo 11. My grandmother could remember the first time she saw an automobile, and the horse and wagon the family owned. In less than 60 years computers have gone from building sized machines that added numbers slightly faster than a slide rule, to Palm Pilots. I learned how to use a slide rule in high school. I'm only 36, and I remember the first color TV my family got. We live in a different world than our parents did, and our children will live in one that is different still.
  • At my moms work, if their email servers go down, the whole company shuts down, all 10,000 people.
    People have become too depenedent on email in some cases. They can't do their job without it.
    Every time a new virus comes out the spreads through email they have to shut down the whole system because all the employees are too stupid and still don't know better then to open the attachments.
    But email has improved their productivity by at least 25% and the cost is worth it to them.
    The thing I hate most about email is that it is so impersonal. People fire people though emails.
    They applogize to them thourgh them, ask people out on dates. It gives the anti-social a way to not interact. I hate that
  • I send you this file in order to have your advice
    See you later! Thanks

    Attachment #1 -- me&judy.jpg.vbs
  • "Mr. Watson--Come here--I want to see you."

    "Yes Mr. Tomlinson?"

    "Hi! How are you? I send you this file in order to have your advice. See you later. Thanks"
  • by Ldir ( 411548 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @10:09PM (#2376667)
    My company had World Trade Center offices; our parent company was headquartered there and had a data center there. We also have offices all over the U.S. and a fair international presence. Our company has a fairly conservative approach to technology, viewing the revenue-producing, line-of-business applications as critical. Support applications such as office automation were considered nice-to-haves.

    Consequently, in our Business Continuity Plan, e-mail was designated a "Tier 2" application. This means that it was slated for recovery only after the critical business applications were restored. It was felt that e-mail was a nice-to-have that could easily be replaced with the telephone and fax in a crisis.

    This perception changed dramatically on September 11. We quickly learned how e-mail had become integral to the business. It was the communications mechanism that facilitated most of our internal information exchange. Restoring e-mail moved from second-tier to our highest priority because it was critical to recovery and to communicating with our scattered employees. With hundreds of dislocated people, it was the most reliable way for our clients and our employees to reach specific individuals.

    When future historians talk about the way technology revolutionized business, e-mail will be on the list. My company realized we can't do business without it.

    • There's some significant insight contained in this post. I work for a company that, stats wise, generates 4x the volume of email of any other company in Canada, on a per-employee basis (we've been doing email on IBM mainframes since before most companies had computers).

      Email is much more than just another form of messaging. I've seen email used as a form of decision records, as a primitive form of version control (the email thread contains each revision of the document in question), as discussion threads, and even as a form of middleware for some very significant applications (like train dispatching). In a company like mine, end-to-end delivery of email messages that exceeds 30 seconds is seen as a serious degradation of service (no kidding!)

      Consitent, timely, and reliable delivery of email in large companies (outside, perhaps, of large online sales companies) is arguably more important than nearly any other form of networking.
  • If there were no email then there would be probably be an offline messaging feature of instant messaging. With access control lists built into most instant messaging providers, we'd have no spam. Sounds good to me.
  • The technology behind e-mail does not seem to have changed much over the past three decades. Correct me if I'm wrong [as if you guys wouldn't], but every "advancement" in e-mail over the past decade or so has just served to screw it up- proprietary extensions [i.e. Exchange stuff] that are less than useless because the formatting either vanishes or shows up as garbage.

    Of course, there's spam. That's "new."

  • Humble attitude (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Sometimes we get wound up in the politics and agendas of some members of our community.

    It's always a refreshing moment when one reads an article like this where a technology innovator (I'd say hero, but lately I like to reserve that term) is truly appreciative of what he's done but, while appreciative of what the impact has been, not motivated to drive an agenda with it.

    Yeah, this might be an intellectual flame - but I'll bet many agree with the basic point.

  • Life without email (Score:2, Insightful)

    by el borak ( 263323 )
    Can you imagine your life without email now?

    I've often wished I had the guts to take the same action as Donald Knuth and get rid of my e-mail address []:

    • "... it seems to me that 15 years of email is plenty for one lifetime."

    Of course, I'll be the first to admit that DEK's time is more in demand than mine.

  • by garoush ( 111257 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @10:34PM (#2376751) Homepage
    With email, I get to exercise ALL of my 10 fingers. While with pen-based-mail only 3 get used -- and some use only 2 fingers.

    I keep wandering how our parents managed life with only 2-3 fingers; must have been very boring. So what were they doing with the "other" hand?
  • Can you... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by r_j_prahad ( 309298 ) <> on Monday October 01, 2001 @10:39PM (#2376774)
    Can you imagine your life without e-mail now?

    I try to, oh how I try to imagine, every waking minute of my day, how beautiful life would be without e-mail. I hate e-mail, I'm chronically abused and assaulted by e-mail. I have a boss who wields e-mail as a weapon. When he's pissed, he buries me under e-mail, and then wants to know why I can't get anything done. I've had days where he's sent me two-hundred e-mails, some with seven or eight attachments, paragraphs and pages and volumes and books of e-mail.

    This turd's office is only fifteen feet away from my cube, but I can't get a face-to-face with him. Because he's got e-mail. It's not a communications medium, it's an ass-covering medium.

    When I quit this job (and I have an interview this week) I'm going to mass-print a copy of every e-mail he's ever sent me on every goddamned printer in the company. It'll make our NIMDA infection look benign.
  • The creator can't remember the first message, but he knows it was in ALL CAPS.

    ALL CAPS? I didn't think AOL was around in the 70's.

  • If the patent office then was as fscked up as it is tody, e-mail could have been patented.

    And it would have gotten nowhere. It would not be the major phenomenon it is today.

    This is the perfect example with which to vigorous beat about the head and shoulders those who defend software patents as necessary to innovation. "What about e-mail, you dork?"

  • Happy BDay! (Score:3, Funny)

    by MathJMendl ( 144298 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @10:54PM (#2376837) Homepage
    Happy Birthday Email!! ILOVEYOU! I send you this file in order to have your advice. It contains information about how to make $100,000 per month, no risk! That's right, obtain a prosperous future with a college diploma for only $99!
  • Bit of email history (Score:4, Informative)

    by Simm0 ( 236060 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @11:10PM (#2376883) Homepage
    Interesting how the @ symbol wasn't added till a year later.

    Ray Tomlinson of BBN invents email program to send messages across a distributed network. The original program was derived from two others: an intra-machine email program (SENDMSG) and an experimental file transfer program (CPYNET)

    Ray Tomlinson (BBN) modifies email program for ARPANET where it becomes a quick hit. The @ sign was chosen from the punctuation keys on Tomlinson's Model 33 Teletype for its "at" meaning (March)

  • Email is come-from-behind technology. Although it predates voice mail and fax by nearly 15 years, it is only in the last 5 years or so that it rivals them in popularity.

    Despite its success, email hasn't supplanted either voice mail or fax. Nearly everyone who has email also uses voice mail or fax, often both at work and at home. In spite of the fact that both voice mail and fax can be sent as an email attachment, those two technologies show no signs of disappearing. The sales of fax machines continues to rise and voice mail appears to be at saturation.

    As near as I can surmise, both voice mail and fax have a higher degree of perceived urgency than email does. This urgency comes from the urgency of the technology they supplement or replace. Voice mail is a stand in for a telephone call itself, the most urgent form of communication. Faxes replaced couriers, which also were reserved for the most important documents.

    Email seems to be primarily used for non-urgent communication. Part of the reason is, perhaps, that the sender of email cannot be sure if the message has arrived. For voice mail, if you get the greeting and the beep, you are reasonably sure of delivery. For fax, the fax standard guarantees that the fax will not be sent unless it is being received at the other end.

    In one way, the urgency of email will probably not be determined by the message but by the attachments. The ability of email to move, store and forward electronic documents in a standardized way may determine its future development.

    In another way, the urgency of email will be raised by email messages generated by computer. Because email can be generated by computer much easier than voice mail and fax, more and more email could be of the alert variety that tells the recipient that something needs his attention.

    As a result I would look for some kind of encoding that flagged an email as urgent beyond simply the opinion of the sender. For instance, the email addresses that users give out might someday contain some unique priority designation so that priority could be determined by the source of the message.

    One can see the process at work now when sys admins have computers send email alerts to their pagers and cell phones.

    Once urgency can be reliably defined in an email message it could change its fundamental characteristic, which at the moment is convenience.

    • by rjnerd ( 143758 )
      Fax and voicemail have been around for a very long time. The earliest patents for fascimile machines are only slightly newer than those of teletypes. (19th century). You could even get cheap machines as WW2 surplus, many ham radio operators played with the technogy in the 50's and 60's. It was a niche technogy (mostly used by the newspaper photo distribution services) until the Japanese wanted a way to send documents to each other electronically. An ASR-33 doesn't cut it when you have a page of kanji to transmit. Until then the west was happy to send each other telex messages.

      Voicemail is otherwise known as an answering machine. I admit I had email before I owned an answering machine, but in the days before Bell allowed "foreign" devices to connect to their lines, answering machines were fairly uncommon.

      Certainly once you could get a magnetic wire recorder, you could do an answering machine. The oldest unit I have heard of, dates from the late 30's. (I am sure someone tried it with phonograph technology, but I don't think it was commercially viable.)

      If you are looking for a business practice changing technology that is newer than email, try FEDEX.

      One question I proposed for the Nerd Purity tests (the long ones with the possibility of >500 point scores). 2 points for having an email address in high school. If you are class of '85 or earlier, add 2 points for each year. Class of '75 or earlier, add 5 points per year.

      As to the + vs @ nomenclature: I remember in 1977 spending 10 minutes explaining to a business card printer just what that blob was (at sign didn't cut it, he needed "commercial at" before he got it. There wasn't a typewriter handy so I could point.), and that "DP@MIT-ML" was correct, and "DP @ MIT-ML" wasn't.

      Oh yea, as to the UPPER CASE, the commonly available terminals of the day didn't provide it.

  • by Bowie J. Poag ( 16898 ) on Monday October 01, 2001 @11:47PM (#2376961) Homepage

    E-Mail is more than 30 years old. Doug Englebart's NLS system was doing email for years prior to '71, and infact, demonstrated it publically in '68 [].

    Get your facts straight, gang.

    • Thanks for the link, and the perspective.

      -- MarkusQ

    • wasn't Englebart's email program limited to only sending email to users of that machine?
    • It would figure. Keep in mind that Yahoo broke this story.
    • Englebart was no doubt years ahead of his time but email as we know it is traced back to Tomlinson.

      As the article about Ray Tomlinson says:
      Like a number of then existing electronic message programs, the oldest dating from the early 1960s, SNDMSG only worked locally; it was designed to allow the exchange of messages between users who shared the same machine. Such users could create a text file and deliver it to a designated "mail box."

      Tomlinson's achievement seems to have been "transferring files among linked computers at remote sites within ARPANET", that is creating users' mail boxes accessable over ARPNET, which did not exist as such before 1968.

      As Englebart describes [] the system: "Each individual has private file space, and the group has community space, on a high-speed disc with a capacity of 96 million characters." The system therefore doesn't appear to be the network environment that Tomlinson was working in.

      Englebart's list of Pioneering Firsts [] is said to include "integrated hypermedia email" but the term email may be an anachronism [] in this context.

  • As I have heard history told, E-mail systems were in use before 1971. E-mail is said to have started by people leaving files for each other in various places on a time sharing system. Then, to make this easier, various scripts and clients were created.

    Tomlinson apparently was the first to send E-mail via the Internet (or any network?), and he is said to actually have adapted a time sharing mail program to do this.

    • by bstadil ( 7110 )
      TI has a system called MSG that functioned a text based email system. I used it in 1974 in Denmark and it had been in use for more than five years in the US I was told at the time. It connected all TI sites around the world but the system was based on an IBM 360 something.
  • TESLA NOT MARCONI! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @12:08AM (#2377000)
    Tesla invented the radio damnit! Not Marconi!
  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @12:10AM (#2377007) Homepage Journal
    It's funny... this is the first mail I received after reading this article...

    From Degree_Program@University_World Mon, 01 Oct 2001 02:27:33 -0700
    Received: [deleted]
    Message-ID: [deleted]
    From: Degree_Program@University_World
    Bcc: [deleted]
    To: [deleted]
    Subject: Diplomas from prestigious universities in days.
    Date: Mon, 01 Oct 2001 05:18:05 -0400 (EDT)
    MIME-Version: 1.0
    Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"
    Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

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    and the admiration of all.

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    universities based on your present knowledge
    and life experience.

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    Bachelors, masters, MBA, and doctorate (PhD)
    diplomas available in the field of your choice.

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    CALL NOW to receive your diploma
    within days!!!

    1 - 9 1 7 - 5 9 1 - 3 0 0 1

    Call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including
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  • Back in high school in Fairfax County, VA, we had a couple of HP machines that we time-shared with the rest of the schools in the county.

    We had a series of chat-type programs which were forbidden by the administrators, since we were supposed to use the computers for computing. (That is, generating square root tables and printing our names in an endless loop.) To implement these apps, we needed to have files with multi-writer access, which only the sysops were able to create, so what did we do? We cracked them, of course!

    Even then, circa 1979, we knew what computers were *really* for.


  • by sfe_software ( 220870 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @02:33AM (#2377228) Homepage
    Maybe it's about time some new standards are formed? I bet the SPAM problem would be much better if we had some form of SMTP-authorization that was standardized. I know there have been many attempts, but no two clients support the same few methods... Open-relays worked 30 years ago, but times change.

    On a lighter note, I couldn't imagine life without email.
  • There are unified messaging [] projects and products starting to come that will allow you to consolidate all your data. This has to be one of the most important time saving ideas. Get your voicemail on the web, listen to your Email or IM on the phone, Fax on the web, text to speech, etc.

    Another consolidation that I really like, is Instant messaging products, like Tillian []. I can now get my AOL/AIM/Yahoo/ICQ/IRC in one program. (The irc is ok, but I'll stick with mirc and bitchx)..

    Another Verizon customer, DSL'less in Seattle.
  • It was back in 1979, on MTS (Michigan Terminal System) at the University of Alberta, where I'd bought a computer account while in High School. Previous to that, we'd had an in-hous messaging system (simply called 'mail).

    Mail was pretty simple. Everybody who wanted to use it, created a file 'mail' in their home directory which was permitted append-only others. (You think ACLs are a new idea?). The mail program took your message, added a header, and appended it to the end of the recipient's mail box. (much like UNIX mail does, except that the destination mailboxes were decentralized).

    The first multi-system mail had interesting routing features. I remember a message from Edmonton to Calgary (180 miles south of Edmonton) went south to the states, through New York and California before arriving in Calgary via Utah.

    Not long afterwards I got introduced to Unix, and the Usenet. Needless to say I was hooked. I was soon expounding the values of email to everybody who would listen. -- trying to get them to understand why it was, in so many ways, better than fax, for most written communications.

    It was almost a crusade -- trying to get as many people as possible onto email. Even back then, I was into remote administration -- running boxes from home over a 300 baud modem with a homemade terminsl program. I still remember one person replying to one of my emails:

    Is your system clock completely out of whack, or is that really when you sent that email?
    The clock was accurate.
  • Here is my own sarcastic take on the some of the "facts" from the article:

    He also conceived the now-famous ``+'' symbol to ensure a message was sent to a designated recipient.

    + was pretty famous for years before that. This is not the 5000th anniversary of addition. And how did they miss the correct symbol by such a margin anyway?

    And, the top-of-the-line modem connection at the time operated at a snail-like 300 baud, roughly one-twentieth of the speed of today's standard 56.6 kbps modem.

    300*20=6000 ... 300*200=60000

    Calculators are cheap... please get one.

    Another major stage in its development came in the mid-90s as the first Web browsers introduced the World Wide Web to the couch potato.

    The world wide web must have been fairly lame before the invention of the browser.


  • by Stavr0 ( 35032 ) on Tuesday October 02, 2001 @10:50AM (#2378155) Homepage Journal
    Before @ addresses were common we had bang path []s where our email would hop from host to host with the UUCP [] protocol.

  • Ok, I was half asleep when my Prof said this (so it may not be exact); but he's not the kind to BS, and he actually has the connections to these kind of people. He said it was something like:

    Hey Mike, this is a test. Call me if you get this.

    Yeah, the name is probably wrong and he might have been asking for a fax, but it just sounds so Engineer-like that I believe it.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972