You Have Mail! But How Was Email Invented And Why?

By: John Rebecca


Can you imagine life before email? How on earth did anyone get anything done? It has become such a huge part of our working and social lives that we take it for granted. What would you do if email disappeared overnight? The world would probably come to a standstill! We have become so reliant on electronic mail; we often prefer to email someone instead of having a conversation. It removes the threat of a confrontation, but maybe we rely on it too much. Let's have a look at how this modern marvel was devised.

In The Beginning

In the nineteen sixties we were using ‘timesharing computers'. These had the capacity to perform more than one task concurrently. Computer users often sent little messages to each other whilst monitoring the machine's workload. It is a natural habit for humans to extend communications in this way. This method of contact was limited to the people using the computer terminal.

ARPANET

Fast forward to the nineteen seventies and Ray Tomlinson was working on the pre-internet system with message applications. He developed an email application known as SNDMSG; this worked over the ARPANET environment. By adding a file copying program known as CPYNET; Tomlinson had given the users their first taste of electronic mail. He also chose the ‘commercial at' symbol to bring the user and host names together. This usage of ‘@' is still being adhered to today in all versions of email addressing protocol.

FTP

The commands ‘MAIL' and ‘MLFL' were introduced to the FTP program. This allowed them to be empowered with the capability of email transmissions via the network transport system. FTP transmitted and produced a single copy of each individual email file. The STMP email facility, introduced much later, enabled a user to send the same message to multiple recipients.

UNIX

Steve Walker managed a project, in nineteen seventy five, that developed a MSG system to be used over the UNIX operating system. This format is now used worldwide over the myriad of UNIX systems in existence.

Sendmail

In the nineteen eighties at Berkeley University; Eric Allman was working with the email relaying technology. He created a program known as 'delivermail' that allowed users to combine different email services. Up until now you could only send an email to someone on the same network. He improved this development and created the ‘sendmail' program. This became the STMP server that is used by every email system on the planet today.

Commercial Email

In nineteen eighty eight, Vinton Cerf connected MCI mail to the experimental NSFNET network. This was to be the first official use of the internet and email combined. It was also extended to the users of Ohio State University Network.

Online Services

In nineteen ninety three, American Online and Delphi began to connect their in-house email system to the Internet. This became the first commercial large scale use of the email system for worldwide web users. Email is here to stay!

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