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History of Email

April 19, 2016 - By 

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E-mail has been one of the easiest and most efficient modes of communication for over the past six decades now. Amazing, isn’t it?

Despite the rapid and everyday advancement in technology and communication, the electronic mail has not died out but rather has evolved as an integral component of the larger marketing campaign. It is used in every organization, educational institution and business industry all over the world!

With the click of a button and through different electronic mail servers, important files, documents and messages are transferred to other e-mail accounts for safe, easy and quick mail delivery.

We shall now take a look at what exactly an electronic mail is. Here we go!

Electronic Mail, What is it?

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An electronic mail is a digitally transmitted message sent to different servers that are stored in the receiver’s inbox to be read. The purpose of the e-mail can simply be understood by viewing it as a message in the receiver’s directory, their inbox, where it can be viewed, replied to, forwarded, edited or saved for future reference whenever they log in to their account; just like leaving a personal message or note on someone’s desk.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is a system for sending messages from one individual to another through telephone communication (i.e. telecommunications) links between computers or terminals using a specially designed software.

Furthermore, electronic mail or e-mail is the two-way exchange of data or computer-stored messages via telecommunication. They are usually encoded in American Standard Code of Information Interchange (ASCII) text. However, e-mails do not only consist of text but also other attachments such as pictures, graphics, videos, files, sounds and other nontext files that are sent in binary streams.

Electronic mail is not only one of the first modes of communication online but also one of the preferred and popular means of data interchange. A majority of the total traffic over the internet is used by the sending and receiving of e-mails amongst different people located in different parts of the world. Not only amongst people, but e-mails are also interchanged between online Internet Service Providers (ISP), users and on networks apart from the internet.

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Electronic Mail Networks

Electronic mail networks such as Local Area Networks (LAN) and Wide Area Networks (WAN) are necessary to establish a smooth flow of data transmission both within and outside an organization. Telecommunication links such as leased lines and dial-up modems were used earlier to provide means of transporting emails internationally, establishing a large global network. Different formats have been used over the years, replacing the previous one with a newer and upgraded format.

An early packet known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was used to switch packets on a network. It was the first network to implement the protocol suite called the Transmission Control Protocol or Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).

The Transmission Control and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) is the most basic communication protocol language for the internet. It is used as a communication protocol in a public or private network, which is also known as an intranet for private network and an extranet for a public network.

Both of these technologies did not only become the technical foundation for the internet but also for the electronic mail system as of course emails rely heavily on the availability of the world wide web.

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Electronic Mail Types

There are four main types of emails. The first is the web-based email which includes email providers who have a web based email client for example America Online (AOL) mail, Google mail (G-mail), Yahoo mail (Y-mail) and Outlook by Microsoft. These web based emails allow individuals to log into their personal email accounts online by using any web browser such as Google Chrome, Firefox etc. from where they can access their mailbox and hence send or receive their mail. Because this mail exists virtually, it can only be viewed and replied to through the internet connection.

A user may sign in by entering his personal email identification ID and password, such as shown below.

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The second type of email is the Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) email service, which is used when a user needs to view or read their inbox messages from the mail server. These messages can be stored for future reference or if need be deleted in the mail server trash. This type supports the simple requirements of read-and-delete with access to mail drop mailboxes.

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The third type of email is the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) email server, which allows users to access and use their mailbox from different or multiple devices. Small portable devices such as smartphones, tablets and notebooks have the facility to support mailboxes by having their own email applications to work through these devices. It makes it easier for users to access their mailbox and send and receive brief emails on the go with better keyboard access and mail view.

The last type of electronic mail is the Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) server, which is a messaging structure and an API based on Application Programming Interface (API).

Now that we know what an electronic mail is, we shall now travel through a time machine to discover the journey of electronic mail since its inception to its usage today.

The History of Electronic Mail

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This is going to be a long journey, so buckle up. Emails have existed for nearly forty-five years now. Yes, five decades! Here is where it all began:

1971 – this was the year the first email was launched, also known as the birth year of electronic mail. Email like any other technological innovation has its common link connected with the military technology.

Ray Thomlinson, a computer engineer from Massachusetts, developed a message interexchange system that was transmitted from computers through the internet using the @ i.e. the “at” symbol to denote and identify email ID addresses. His system became virally popular with the help of ARPANET user linkages. Due to this high demand, the Unites States Department of Defence System placed itself as the basis or foundation of the internet.

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Its discoverer and inventor, VA Shiva Ayyadurai, developed an electronic version of an internal organization mailing system, which he created, called and copyrighted as an e-mail in the year of 1982. According to him, the Tomlinson version was a primitive form of text messages. The email was solely the creation of Ayyadurai, who had invented electronic mail at the age of fourteen. Pretty impressive for a kid, isn’t it?

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1972 – Larry Roberts, who also made his research and conductions in the work of ARPANET, wrote the first ever email management program in this year. This program was developed to perform the functions of forming lists, selecting, forwarding, and replying to email messages. He broke the tradition reply and delete option by adding on more useful extensions that are deemed necessary and worthwhile for email users everywhere.

From this stage onwards, electronic mail was not only the new hyping thing but also the most researched and highly worked on. Many scientific and computer wizards made useful interpretations, predictions, experiments and observations into developing an even more advanced email technique or operation.

1976 – The Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II (The Second) made her way to sending her first email message on ARPANET. On doing so, she became the first Lady and first Head of State of the United Kingdom to do so. This lead on to many other countries mimicking her big step by following her lead and coming on board the ARPANET family, sending in their first electronic email as a symbol of recognition and technological advancement.

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1988 – The Eudora application was created, that gave a trendy personality to the classical electronic mail was invented by Steve Dorner. This graphical user interface (GUI) application gave a range of visual effects, graphical themes, and other features such as spam watch, character encoding support, modified mailbox, webmail services etc. other examples of graphical user interfaces include Outlook and Netscape.

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1989 – in this year, the first Lotus Notes email software was released. With over thirty-five thousand copies sold in the first year, Lotus Notes proved to be the famous for its development of more than eight release mirrors and the great contribution it dedicated towards the overall development of personal computers and electronic mailing system itself. One of the main features of this software is its mail application, which allows communication both within and outside an organization, to other organizations, through the internet hub.

Other key features of the Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino client-server collaboration email software include the options of:

New message creation, new message reply and reply to all, new message by forward, view mail and folders, archive, spell checker, delivery options, signatures, and trash.

1996 – Microsoft released its first ever Internet Mail and News 1.0, which was the third release to its Internet Explorer web browser. This was later named Outlook. Outlook is however now a discontinued news and email agent for Internet Explorer, with its last release in the 4.0 and 6.0 version. Outlook had been replaced by Windows Mail, which was later upgraded to Windows Live Mail as a completely new software.

Point to be noted, Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express are two entirely different software applications and should not be confused with each other.

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1996 – Still in the same year, a selective number of electronic mail companies such as Hotmail launched an amazing and unbeatable offer that led to millions of Hotmail users in just a span of few days. Hotmail offered its email, services absolutely free (till date) with easy access anywhere. All you need in a computer, a secure internet connection, and boom! Hotmail messenger and mail became the next big thing, with every Tom, Dick and Harry signed up on the announcement.

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1997 – Hotmail was now the sole email internet provider that took users by a storm. Each and every individual, whether for organizational purposes or to stay in touch with close and far off friends and family, had their own personal id and mailbox on Hotmail. Making Microsoft an even bigger hit after Microsoft purchased the popular email server in 1988, Hotmail fans soared from continent to continent as they had allowed free services that no other electronic mail company had offered then. Today, all email hosts are free. Hotmail has since then been one of the leading email companies in the internet and web services industry.

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1998 – The famous internet browser, Hotmail, was purchased by Microsoft for approximately four hundred million U.S. dollars. Talk about investment and power, Microsoft sure knows how to use these two major assets.

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1999 – Blackberry joined the gang, making email access through mobile phones more easy and convenient. Mobile email became the new ‘buzz’ with Blackberry.

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2001 – By the end of the Twentieth century and the beginning of the Twenty-First, the electronic mail system celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with all its users who signed up as members of the technologically advanced and upgraded email communicators.

2003 – The United States President, George W. Bush, signed the bill pertaining to law penalties and restrictions against unsolicited electronic mails. This law was known as the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM) of 2003.

Apart from this, electronic mails were first aired on the very popular television series The Simpsons, where the lead character Homer Simpson revealed his first ever email address as chunkylover53@aol.com, a hilarious moment for all the Simpson fanatics out there.

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2004 – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) codified the electronic mail spamming laws, with the aim of protecting America’s consumers and the internet and electronic mail users from unwanted experiences.

Another big moment of the year was when all the trending and frequently-used electronic mail and internet acronyms were officially recognized, added and made a part of the English (Slang) language in the Oxford English Dictionary.

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Later this year, Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) was introduced after the MMS World Congress 2004 Conference held in Vienna, Austria.

2005 – The email address verification was verified within this year. The Sender Policy Framework (SPF) was released to ensure validation of all electronic mail addresses to control and eliminate spammers and spam emails. This was necessary considering the many disruptive and damaging emails that carried malicious softwares such as viruses and access to potential hackers as well as damage to important files/data stored on the system which would not only be difficult to replace but costly to recover.

2007 – The anti-phishing security protocol called the Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), was taken on by the Internet Engineering Task Force in 2007. Following this, Google Mail (Gmail) made itself available for free to all public users worldwide in an attempt to gain lead in the internet and email services industry. Google launched Gmail on April Fools Day, after a very long four-year Beta wait.

2008 – The Presidential Candidate in running, and later successor to President, Barack Obama managed to compile the largest record of email addresses, consisting of over thirteen million email IDs. Talk about email users huh.

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2009 – Smartphones and gadgets went up to a whole other level. These high technology devices take a new path with Apple in the lead. Selling its most wanted and sold iPhone series, Apple Incorporation and other mobile devices made electronic mail even more easily accessible by introducing the new 3G which stands for the third generation of mobile telecommunications. The most awaited iPhone 3G ran out of stock within the first week!

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Since the launch of the new third generation telecommunication services, millions of electronic mail users have downloaded and installed their preferred email application, be it Yahoo, Google or Hotmail, to send and receive their official and personal emails on the go. No more need for wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) as 3G is the new high speed and advanced internet.

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2011 – This year had a lot in store for the email world. Starting with the name, e-mail was the most used acronym for electronic mail. However, this was replaced with email, that is without the commonly used dash or hyphen, by the Associated Press Stylebook and as the standard of the United States copyright of email.

Later on, a study was conducted revealing findings of the most easily breakable email password as ‘password’, following the use of a sequence of numbers as easy as 123456 and qwerty. Many such account passwords were hacked and therefore, released publicly to condemn users from using such easy passwords as from their email address, for example, their name, or simple keyboard sequences both numerical and alphabetical.

2012 – A statistics of the number of Americans who access the electronic mailing system on their mobile or other portable devices i.e. notebooks, smart tabs etc. reached approximately ninety million people, with over sixty-four percent reporting that they check their emails on a daily basis. Incredible!

The Smithsonian Honoured Email became the newest permanent archive in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History later this year. Proper paperwork, documentation, computer coding and artifacts recording the invention of the electronic mail by founder and inventor VA Shiva Ayyadurai were recorded thoroughly as recognition of his most unique and effective technological breakthrough and innovation.

2013 – Google launched its newest invention, Google tabs. These aimed at helping a more organized manner of sorting emails and lessening the burden of increasing emails. This was highly necessary as each email received was either trash or needed to be added or moved into another folder, for example, job emails, while others were spam and needed to be sent to the spam folder to avoid any other emails from that email address. A less cluttered and more organized inbox will ensure easier and quicker replies as well as avoid any confusion. It will also make it more convenient for the user to access and find any specific email if they are categorized.

Apart from this, the founder and creator of electronic mail VA Shiva Ayyadurai along with Dr. Leslie P. Michelson launched the Innovation Corps. to create innovative techniques for the youth across the world, especially targeting rural areas such as smaller societies, inner cities, and villages. This was done with the aim that technology such as the world wide web and the electronic mail system will grow in these areas while more innovation such as email would be available for the village residents.

2014 – The famous and well-recognized international SONY Entertainment brand was hacked, facing heavy loss and persecution as well as court orders for their hacking incident. Hundreds of sensitive and private emails were hacked and released. The home country of SONY, North Korea, was blamed by all users, especially the United States government, for poor service quanlity and online management. However, North Korea refused such claims and made efforts to overcome the users’ loss and/or exposure to harmful threats and risks due to hackers.

2015 – Email is still widely used today. No, it is not a dying or a replaced mode of communication, not now or in the near future. However, 2015 has been recognized and marked as the first step towards the beginning of the end of the email trend. This is because other alternative methods of communication that hold the same features and benefits such as Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, Twitter, Facebook etc. have gained much popularity and are beginning to slowly and gradually replace emails.

Back in the days, email was created as a means of making humans more efficient and productive. However ,considering today’s evolving business world and global environment, emails have become a little out-dated and old fashioned and are only still used for specific purposes such as job resume sending and job applications. It is no longer considered efficient to be flooded with an huge number of emails waiting patiently to be attended and responded to while the user himself is somewhere important, say a business meeting.

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Looking over the past forty-four years for electronic mail, from its first launch in 1971 to its use in 2015, email has transformed from being one of the most unpopular and seldom-used forms of telecommunication to one of the most trending and still relied upon modes of communicating important messages including text, sound, images, videos and all other sorts of files with the click of a button! From organizations to institutions, official or personal work, emails are still widely used for so many purposes and are here to stay for years to come.

2016 – Many people today strive for the inbox zero approach. However, what a majority of the email users receive now is more spam than ever and unnecessary advertisements. Thus, instead of zero, you are more likely to be overburdened with a large number of emails that require time and effort to simply delete and repeat than reading and acknowledging those that are actually important.

Many people have actually been forced to adopt different methods to overcome this issue without accidently or purposefully deleting the few important emails in a bunch of junk emails. Of course, as an email is sent, it continues to show on top of the last one, sending important ones down the display window, which makes it possible to miss them when scrolling through your inbox. Sadly, a few marketing experts shared the same problem and came up with a very inadaptable and painstaking solution that they have been using to avoid such a mishap. Post-it notes. Yes, post it sticky notes are now used to jot down the important things as a reminder that those emails must not only be looked into but responded to and stored in the inbox for future reference as well. It is, however, beyond worrisome to have to apply such a tactic in today’s advanced era to keep up with the en opwater faucet flow of emails dropping in by the minute.

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Fred Wilson declared email bankruptcy in the year of 2007. Today, many email users have been following his footsteps. This shows the decline of email and why it is being replaced by other social media communication applications.

However, it has also been seen how this replacement of social media apps is taking place. Many collaborative messaging systems such as Yammer, HipChat, Slack, Snapchat etc. are growing limitlessly. Other tools and features have also emerged over the years and have been taking the consumer market by storm such as Skimbox, Mailstrom, Inbox Pause, Sanebox, and Xobni, which was bought by Yahoo in 2013 and has similar features now in Yahoo Mail.

Other softwares have also gained great attention and usage amongst writers, like Freedom and Omniwriter. No other application gives the ultimate advantage of accessing the internet for chosen periods of time, allowing you to easily load and save that page if you wish to go offline for a while.

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Furthermore, other internet tools, such as Unroll.me and Boomerang, have also been gaining some hype, while Microsoft goes off buying another large company that specializes in streamlining mobile email, called Acompli. These social applications are helping eliminate the main issues millions of users face in today’s world of internet filled with junk and spam emails.

Email Overview

Emails are the classical communication technique and although are being somewhat replaced, are still widely used and will continue to be used by many organizations, institutions and users around the globe. Many large companies and organizations have been adopting stricter email policies to avoid issues such as illicit or inappropriate content, spamming, hacking and other commonly faced email issues, with more rigid rules and regulations to instill internet conformity. Those who tend to break the law in any way are heavily penalized to discourage others from following their negativity. This is highly necessary with the rapid increase in internet and technology within each organization and household.

Many companies have implemented email amnesty during the past two years. This allows them to follow and adopt the zero email initiative, banning internal emailing that is causing wastage of time and lengthy work procedures as well as increased inefficiency and less productivity. Although this initiative has not fully succeeded as yet, it has reached a marked significance with the reduction of the email volume up to sixty percent, leading to more efficiency and effectiveness of the company’s internal and external collaborated messaging system.

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As seen in the picture, email users literally came to this conclusion: a few years ago, receiving emails was way more exciting than receiving mails by post. And now receiving a letter over post calls for exciting times! Funny how time changes circumstances. Human needs, wants and desires have always been infinite. Man wishes to have the best and do the best through performance and productivity, and thus is in constant search for the next big thing. Be it electronic mails or the latest/upgraded social media communication applications, users will turn to anything that is not only cost-effective and time saving but also high in efficiency, productivity, utility and progression.

We have now not only understood the electronic mail use, types, and purpose but also its history over the past forty-five years. Emails are a source of communication many will continue to rely on until something else of the same proportion in terms of ease turns up. So all you internet and electronic mail users, have no fear, for email is here to stay. And will be for the next ten years at least. So type away and click that mouse as much as you’d like, who knows you probably received many emails while reading this. It’s mail time!