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".


California Girl said...

My Gawd, I actually remember when you had to add cost to a package if a letter was included. I think this led to the letter only parcels FedEx came up with.

Your history lesson just goes to show the USPS has never been ahead of the curve. Kind of pathetic. I like old fashioned letters.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Great recall, California Girl. I like old fashioned letters, too! Hopefully USPS will stay in business despite their legendary lack of foresight.

Howie at Sky Pulse Media said...

Funny I had hoped you would be back blogging Helen. I refused to take your link off my own blog. You always have such great stuff to share. It is amazing how far technology has come. I graduated high school in 1985 and I was occasionally lucky in college when someone had a stand alone word processor instead of a typewriter to do papers on. And computer science was still teaching Basic Language vs networks or how to use software.

Welcome back hope you are doing well.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Love your memory of the stand alone word processor, Howie. I do remember how futuristic it seemed. I had one--the Kaypro. It was the first "transportable" computer. At 26 lbs, they couldn't call it portable, I guess.

Thanks for not giving up on my posts. I'm sorry I'm not as prolific these days. So many social media identities, so little time.

California Girl said...

is the Holleywood site your work? had to go there. titles, y'know.

Howie at Sky Pulse Media said...

Helen my girlfriends parents have 30 years experience restoring old homes. They started by actually taking homes apart and then storing the walls etc and rebuilding them on new sites, mostly in Vermont but also NH and Mass. They do incredible work if you need any help or guidance.


Though looking at your restoration blog seems you have it all handled LOL Awesome!

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

@California Girl--it is our project. For better or worse. Fun to have an adventure in the actual, 3D world for a change...

Wow, Howie! That's a great site to know about. Amazing the work they've done, both inside and out. I've bookmarked it as a definite resource. Thanks for the intro.