September 15, 2004

History of E-mail

Ever wonder how our new favorite means of communication came to be? Well wonder no more- here is a simple overview of the history of e-mail.

E-mail, meaning “electronic mail” uses the Internet to read and send messages. The earliest and crudest form of e-mail began in 1968 when a Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) was hired by the United States Defense Department to create something called the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). The purpose of ARPANET was to create a way for the military and education centers to communicate. ARPANET eventually linked four centers in 1969 and fifteen by 1971. The linking of the centers made scientists think about sending messages to each other over a common system.

In 1971 history was made when Ray Tomlinson of ARPANET sent the world’s first electronic message. Tomlinson sent the simple message by changing an existing, internal mail program and linking it to a new network. The actual message was Tomlinson sent was only to himself stating ‘Testing 1 2 3’. After the success of the first message, in 1972 Tomlinson made the modern-day format of the email address. The format was, and still is, user or mailbox name, the @ sign, and the machine's name.

After 1972, the use of e-mail grew. However, the new electronic message was not as friendly as it is today. The mail had to be read in the order it was received and the reading and sending process used two separate programs. ARPANET knew it needed to make e-mail much similar to use and hurried to redefine the system. A listing from History of the Internet, shows the rapid development of e-mail. After formatting e-mail, it grew in popularity with the public. Several e-mail systems were created including Usernet and ‘Eudora’. The systems allowed users to send mail much easier than before. More than 400 users were linked to the Usernet system by 1982. In 1994 the more than 10,000 people used the system throughout the world.

Also, in 1995, with the so-called ‘explosion’ of the Internet, more e-mail systems were developed such as Compuserve and AOL. This allowed even more people to send information to each other.

Now, it seems that one can’t imagine life without constant e-mails. Often, we depend on e-mails to receive important information from friends, relatives, businesses, and schools. Without the invention many years ago, several of us would have no clue what’s going on.

This is just a brief description of the history of e-mail. For a much more technical look, check out the following websites:

The History of the Internet
Electronic Mail
The First E-mail

Posted by VanessaKolberg at September 15, 2004 09:25 PM
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