[mailhist-discuss] Segments of email history
dcrocker at gmail.com
Tue Apr 3 12:45:01 PDT 2012
On 3/31/2012 9:38 AM, Craig Partridge wrote:
> Seamless email relaying
This struck me as an interesting and unexpected item.
Plus I like having the lead being the summary of the innovation and I recommend
it for all our discussions. That is, for any candidate, we should lead with its
value proposition. What did it do that changed things?
This particular one hadn't occurred to me and yet it was of massive importance
for infrastructure operation. It really came in two stages that probably should
be marked separately:
1. Seamless addressing, with the DNS. The domain name system provided a
naming overlay that became universal and supplanted local-part source-routing
hacks of %, !, etc., for relaying across heterogeneous administrations and
technologies. (I could argue that the %-hack wasn't strictly source-routing,
but it would be a very weak argument and it doesn't matter for this item...)
2. Email routing, with the MX record. Allowed remote sites to be as easy
to contact as ones "directly" connected to the network core. As routing
protocols go, this one is remarkably simplistic and yet it has proved
sufficient. And it took some iterations to get right.
> Mark Horton's creation of uuencode/uudecode.
I'd label this "First de facto 'attachment' convention". Was it in fact the
first that gained widespread adoption?
On 3/31/2012 10:54 AM, Thomas Haigh wrote:
> ·Pre-email electronic message transmission, including the suggestion that SAGE
> operators could hack personal messages into data streams, etc.
We are going to need a solid definition of email, so that it marks a clear and
reasonable boundary and makes it easy to exclude what came before.
> ·Commercial offering of email by timesharing service
I've generally thought that onTyme (Tymenet's email service) was the first
commercial email offering. I think it was operational in the mid-70s! )
> ·Integrated address book
Good point. I don't remember whether Hermes had something. I know that Eudora
did, a bit later.
> ·Confirmed delivery over network
I think this showed up in the LAN-based (single-server) systems before
network-based system, but there was a network-based commercial enterprise system
whose name I'm forgetting.
> ·Email systems offered to smaller businesses by office automationvendors (DEC,
> Wang, IBM, etc -- not clear what they had when in late 1970s)
And cc:mail and some others. I'm unclear about the exact timeline, but suspect
the LAN systems weren't significant until the mid-80s, whereas the others were
really more mainframe-oriented and earlier.
> ·Email service targeted at consumers
"targeted at consumers" could be tricky. What does that mean, exactly. Did
compuserve qualify? (e.g., it wasn't the best UI in the world...)
> ·Rich text
oh boy. this one is interesting but could be challenging.
> ·Integrated encryption
This presumes we have it now...
> It's possible that there are some areas in which Internet email does not claim
> the "first."
Certain. Not just possible.
The LAN systems were where most of the user-level innovation was taking place in
the 80s, I believe.
On 4/2/2012 7:53 AM, John Vittal wrote:
>> > * Header fields
>> As best I can tell, this one was one of Ray Tomlinson's innovations.
It would be good to lock this down. I hadn't realized that he created SNDMSG.
And I hadn't realized that header fields came after its initial creation.
>>> * Confirmed delivery over network
>>> * Unread message recall capability
> MSG had this probably as early as 1975. Hermes, also.
I don't recall (pun) MSG's having recall, as in deleting messages stored in a
recipient's mailbox, nevermind on a remote machine.
I've always thought of this as a LAN-system feature that didn't generalize. It
mostly hinged on having a central, department-level database and a /highly/
integrated mail system for the department and/or enterprise.
>> > * 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?
Seems to be Laurel at Parc, before that?
No doubt there are some gradations of innovation here.
The UA/MTA model might fit in here, depending on the definition of
client/server. (That is, independent processes, versus independent machines.)
One can, I think, easily argue that /any/ user program that is distinct from a
transfer program, qualifies under a basic definition. In which case,
sndmsg/cpynet probably qualifies.
To get to POP, we need a definition of intermediate delivery and then
"offloading' to a personal or distinct computer, I think.
When I did the email architecture RFC, recently, the email community took the
stance that POP and IMAP were equivalent, architecturally and that they came
after delivery, per DSN behavior. (I argued otherwise, but lost; I think POP is
a delivery protocol.)
>> > * GUI for client
>> My bet is Novell or someone of that vintage.
Laurel predates that, doesn't it?
>> 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?
Almost certainly yes.
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