[mailhist-discuss] Segments of email history

John Vittal jjvittal at earthlink.net
Mon Apr 2 07:53:00 PDT 2012

Hi Tom (and Craig, et. al.),

I second Craig's comment about the list.  I've added my own annotations.

At 3:07 PM -0400 3/31/12, Craig Partridge wrote:
>Hi Tom:
>Good list.  Some annotations where I think I know enough...
>>  *	Pre-email electronic message transmission, including the suggestion
>>  that SAGE operators could hack personal messages into data streams, etc.
>>  *	Email on timesharing systems, single computer.

It's probably closer to chat than email, but the PLEASE command on 
Tops-10 was there early on to communicate with the operator and users.

>  > *	Header fields
>As best I can tell, this one was one of Ray Tomlinson's innovations.
>>  *	First email reader
>Current lore is Larry Roberts did it to handle ARPANET email -- certainly
>they weren't common enough before ARPANET that Larry had to write one from
>>  *	Network email.
>>  *	Commercial offering of email by timesharing service
>>  *	Integration of email reader, message sender, and composition
>         functions. (Not sure if "Reply" was part of this).
>It was -- the key idea was that, up to "reply", if you got an email and
>wanted to reply you had to hand-type in who should receive the reply.
>(Shows up the paper mail as archetype world that folks were still working in).
>>  *	Integrated address book
>Great point -- I have no idea when this happened.


>>  *	Confirmed delivery over network
>>  *	Unread message recall capability

MSG had this probably as early as 1975.  Hermes, also.

>  > *	Client/server email, with messages downloaded for local processing,
>>  filing, response on a different computer from the mailbox store.

Probably with the advent of POP in 1984?

>  > *	GUI for client
>My bet is Novell or someone of that vintage.
>>  *	Email systems offered to smaller businesses by office automation
>>  vendors (DEC, Wang, IBM, etc -- not clear what they had when in late 1970s)
>>  *	Notes-style advanced database server integrating email with other
>>  collaboration tools
>I think Lotus Notes led here (though I remember that the Lotus guys
>struggled with email -- it didn't make sense to them).

Might one be able to argue that Vezza's MSGDMS or BBN's Hermes fit 
the bill here before Lotus?

>>  *	Email service targeted at consumers
>>  *	Email for personal computer LANs
>>  *	Major global company rolls out email as main mode of internal
>>  communication (IBM? DEC?)

Xerox might be in the mix here too.

>  > *	Rich text
>>  *	Integrated encryption
>>  *	Asian character sets
>>  *	Attachments
>I think that's uuencode and Mark Horton (which is USENET, not ARPANET --
>ARPANET was very very late to this table).
>>  *	Inline images
>>  *	Gateways between commercial email services
>Arrived very early (Dave knows more about MCIMail and their ilk than I do).
>>  It's possible that there are some areas in which Internet email does not
>>  claim the "first." For example, it's conceivable (and I have no knowledge of
>>  this) that IBM's internal system might have offered the same simple global
>>  addressing feature as Craig's "Seamless email relaying" prior to 1987.
>I think I need to explain -- seamless email relaying meant you could send
>email to a large fraction of the distinct networks (by distinct, I mean
>different operator, different services) using the same email address syntax.
>>  Likewise I wouldn't be surprised to learn that proprietary systems provided
>>  capabilities similar to MIME years before this was standardized for Internet
>>  email. There are also some important capabilities that Internet email still
>>  doesn't do very well, which why the market for Exchange and Notes still
>>  exists.
>CMU's Andrew system is probably the best example.
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