[mailhist-discuss] Bank and Trust: early electronic mail usage: HBR article

Suzanne Johnson fuhn at pobox.com
Sat Jul 14 12:02:48 PDT 2012

The March/April 1981 edition of the Harvard Business Review contains 
an article titled: "Doing your office over electronically" by Louis 
H. Mertes.  He was then vp and general manager of systems at 
Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago.

Article describes how they used existing technology to build a 
network of "interactive small-scale computers and a large central 
processing unit" to build access to a central library of the bank's 
information including memos and reports.  There is a section of the 
article dealing with electronic mail, which they apparently began 
prototyping in late 1977.  The entire system was intended for use by 
administrative  personnel,  not the exclusive domain of a 
data-processing department.

There is a reference to electronic mail's superior performance in 
reaching many people at one time, and use of mailing lists,  compared 
to "audio" mail that was deemed more  useful for one person at a time.

One of my favorite paragraphs:

"Let's say you're a commodities lender.  You pick up the phone and 
hear one of your customers request $500,000.  The customer needs 
confirmation of the loan within the next 30 minutes.  Naturally, he 
tells you his credit is good.  But can you risk approving a loan 
without doing research on the customer to obtain up-to-date financial 


More information about the mailhist-discuss mailing list