An @ By Any Name
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Email Versus E-mail
Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Made Mistakes
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I have gathered here some information about my part in the development of one of the most heavily used aspects of the Internet -- email. I sent the first network email in 1971 using a program I wrote called SNDMSG. I have written a brief account of the first email with the intent of forestalling some of the more common questions about that event. If you want to see what the computer used to send the first email looked like, you will find that here too.
It is frequently said that I invented the at sign. Usually, this is intended as a metaphor for writing the first email program. But, just in case... No, I did not invent the at sign! This is one of a number of frequently made mistakes.
Email has a sneaky history. For most people using computers connected to some kind of network, email is just another useful tool. From time to time, the popularity of email has been noted, but it wasn't until about 1993 that anybody questioned its origin. Several people remembered that I had written an early email program and further research failed to find any earlier examples.
I am not sure what sparked this push to uncover the origins of email. Possibly, the imminent 25th anniversary in 1994 of the birth of the ARPANet was responsible. There had been earlier "anniversaries" that nobody noticed, but the 25th was the first nicely numbered anniversary following the internet explosion.
The seven years since has been curious, indeed. The zeal of humans to discover the origins of things that affect their lives is almost frightening. One reporter even asked what I ate for supper the evening on which I successfully sent the first network email. Can you remember what you ate in 1971? I certainly can't.
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