Not one person created email, it was developed over time to become what it is today. It started off like a post-it type note that would pop up on your desktop screen. Although, it would only work on the same computer, so not very useful! It wasn’t until 1971 when Ray Tomlinson (who some claim to be the inventor of email) added the @ symbol to the standard email address as a way to connect a user to a specific machine (within the ARPANET network). He went on to send a successful email from one computer to another. They were right next to each other, but still!
So, what happened next…
Spam, of course!
The first “successful” (note inverted commas) spam email sent was in 1978. The person who sent the email intended it to go to all Arpanet email addresses on the West Coast. However, they didn’t quite understand how to use the program they were sending from and didn’t notice that there was a limit on how many recipients they could CC. Therefore, they continued to type each email address manually without noticing that their recipients were pouring over to the subject section, email header and eventually the email body. For this reason, not many people actually received the email, oops! You can read the original email and find out more information here!
The term spam for unwanted emails came into use
In the 1990s, the use of the word Spam (a tinned spiced meat) used for unwanted emails was adopted. The idea came from a Monty Python episode (full clip below) where the waitress reads out the menu of which almost all dishes contained spam. Unfortunately, the customer didn’t like spam! This led to the conversation being drowned out by the word spam and ended with the song “spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spammity spammmmmmm” sang by a bunch of Vikings. In fact, Gmail used to provide recipes that contained spam in the spam folder’s web-clips. The reason why they have sadly been removed is unknown.
An email was sent from outer space
The first email was sent from outer space in 1991. It was sent to Marcia Ivins, a shuttle communicator at Johnson Space Center from a portable Macintosh computer. It said:
“Hello Earth! Greetings from the STS-43 Crew. This is the first AppleLink from space. Having a GREAT time, wish you were here,…send cryo and RCS! Hasta la vista, baby,…we’ll be back!”
Fortunately, they did come back!
The first “welcomed” spam email was sent
Quite cleverly, the web-hosting company, Xoom took advantage of their knowledge about spam to send a spam email to promote a product that is designed to filter and stop spam. It said:
“You hate junk mail, and therefore we’re sending you junk mail, telling you to get our free product so you can stop it.”
I am not too sure you’d get away with it these days, but it was a good idea for its time.
The Pope sent an apology email
Pope John Paul II was the first Pope to send an email. In 2001, he sent an email to apologize virtually for a number of injustices that happened within the Catholic Church.
An email address was created for Homer Simpson
During 14th series of The Simpsons, Homer Simpson revealed his email address to be email@example.com. One of the Simpson’s writers back in 2003, Matt Selman registered and monitored the account for a while. Naturally, viewers tested the email address to find that it did in fact exist. At first, Matt Selman tried to respond to each email taking on the character of Homer. As you can imagine, the number of emails Homer received became too much for him to handle. At one point, the email account was hacked and malware was sent as an automatic reply in disguise of a Simpson’s movie. You can still send an email to Homer Simpson today; you are unlikely to receive a response, although it is rumored that he will occasionally check and reply to a few with “D’oh“.
Finally… people became emailaholics 😢
Continuous connection and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) have been prominent issues for longer than we may have thought. We all know that social media addictions are more common than not and can become quite serious. Well, it may be hard to believe but, before Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, people were addicted to emails too. People were, and still are, checking their inboxes too often and at inappropriate times: whilst driving and throughout the night, finding it impossible to switch off.
Well, that’s a wrap, folks! If you have any fun facts to share on the history of email, please feel free to comment below! We’d love to hear them.