Tuesday, June 21, 2011

what email looked like before it was email

Perhaps because I grew up with a dad who worked on the first computers, I am fascinated by the origins of our virtual existence. There's a terrific article in the New York Times that traces email back to its birth in the 1960s when two MIT grads working for the school's political science department volunteered to write code for a new idea: electronic mail. Noel Morris and Tom Van Vleck were afraid, at first, that the US Post Office would want to get involved, insisting that a stamp be destroyed for every message sent. At the time, the rule was if you included a letter inside a parcel, you were to add an extra 5 cent stamp. They asked a superior to consult with someone high up at the Post Office who laughed and said no one in the department cared about messages sent on computers.

When Noel died suddenly a few years later, his family was afraid no one would attend the funeral, believing him friendless, as he spent all of his time at keyboards. They were amazed when the funeral home was packed. How did so many know about Noel's death, they wondered? "They all communicate with computers!"

More from Tom Van Vleck's "History of Electronic Mail".

apologies for the hiatus

Sometimes, it's restorative to immerse yourself in the actual three dimensional world, isn't it?