Can anyone remember the days before electronic mail? It seems a lifetime ago, but there used to be a time where parchment and quill was the preferred method of written communication.


The first E-post it note

Email (electronic mail) was originally used as kind of post-it note. Before the advent of networked computers, if you wanted to leave a written message for someone, you had to use the same computer.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology used this form of communication. A message would be left on a user’s directory in a place visible when they logged on.


@t your service

It wasn’t until 1971 that Ray Tomlinson started the ball rolling with the first message between two users on the same network. The story goes that his colleague cautioned him as it wasn’t a project they were supposed to be working on!

It took a few years but email started to emerge properly at the end of the 70s. As it stood, Tomlinson’s email system would only work on networked systems that ran on the same software.


Official sanction

Around the mid-80s, email was used primarily by governments, the military and education institutions. College students are amongst the first to be allocated email addresses.

In 1989, the world’s first ISP, Compuserve, is unveiled. Throughout the 90s, many more ISPs are launched, meaning that mass communication over a network can take place. However, the World Wide Web is not around in the form we know just yet.


The 90s Boom

It was only during the following decade that communications really took off. 1992 saw the first code that allowed an attachment to reach another email address. Although many were chewed up and garbled, it was the first step towards the email we know today.

Hotmail launches in 1996, to be bought by Microsoft in 1997. It is one of the first popular mail box programs.

Over the following decade, email reached massive exposure, with 90 million Americans accessing email through their mobile devices in 2012.

Email has become the form of communication.