The History of Email

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It's hard to believe that email has been around for over 40 years. From its humble beginnings with the ARPANET to what it is today email has been used for endless types of communication. From personal to business email has changed the way people communicate through digital messages. Wikipedia states that some early email communications had to occur when both the sender and recipient were online.

Email Was Different in the Beginning

In its earliest form email was slightly more than an advance in what a modern file directory is where messages were placed in a user's directory where they could read it when they logged in similar to leaving a sticky note on someone's computer or phone while they are away. One of the first email systems was MAILBOX which came from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1965. SNDMSG was another email program used to send messages in the early days of email.

In a sense you could think that emails date back to the days of mainframe computers that had up to a hundred users referenced as "dumb terminals". With the limitations of what you could do with dumb terminals, email messages were the only way you could send messages to other users connected to the same mainframe. The complexity began when computers were able to talk to each other through different networks. Email began to evolve as a means needed to be created to indicate who messages should go to that were understood from the sender and receiver just like how the US postal system works. Thus the term "email address" was born. Ray Tomlinson was an ARPANET contractor in 1972 who decided to use the @ symbol to denote where messages were sent between computers. In other words people could select their name in the front end of an email address and then the @ symbol in the middle and finally the name of the computer on the back end.

Military Used Email Widely

Email was used widely by the military in 1974 as hundreds of users on the ARPANET commonly used it. It wasn't until 1975 when John Vittal created a method of organizing email messages into folders. By 1976 commercial emails were beginning to appear and the need for organizing emails was apparent.

Email Moves from ARPANET to the Internet

As email moved from the ARPANET to the Internet changes began to occur and cataloging these changes became a cumbersome task. When personal computers came out offline readers allowed users to store emails on their personal computers to read and prepare a reply without being connected to the Internet. Keep in mind these were the days of dial up modems that connected you to the Internet via a telephone line. The less amount of time you had to spend online to work online meant you did not have to stay connected and have to pay by the minute just to prepare an email.

Email Gets Standards

The first email standard was simple message transfer protocol (SMTP). This standard is still in use today. The problem with SMTP is that it makes no attempt to validate the authenticity of the sender of an email. This is how so many email frauds occur as it is near impossible to track and validate the sender of an email. Nonetheless to pick up for what SMTP lacks in validation spam filters can catch most of your unwanted email before it even reaches your inbox. Platforms like InboxHit help you with validating email addresses in real-time.


From its humble beginnings to its daily use by millions of people, email remains as the main means of communication for many businesses, companies, and individuals. Regardless of other means of communicating online, email is one of the most important applications online.

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