[mailhist-discuss] Segments of email history

Craig Partridge craig at aland.bbn.com
Sat Mar 31 12:07:20 PDT 2012

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

> *	Email service targeted at consumers


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