Happy Birthday Email (Possibly)!

Anyone that watched the TV show last night with Stephen Fry presenting the 100 greatest gadgets will know exactly how important technology is to us all. But it would probably not surprise you to know that I’d put email right up there as one of the technologies that has transformed the way we all communicate and do business.

And so it is fitting that I noted today an article on The Next Web talking about email’s ‘29th anniversary’ and V.A. Shiva, the ‘man who invented email’. According to the piece, on 30th August 1982, the 16-year old Shiva copyrighted “EMAIL” along with the fields “to: from: cc: bcc: subject: reply, reply all, forward, email body and attachment”.

Shiva told The Next Web: “The guys before me were involved in text messaging. Messages sent from one computer to another computer. Before that Tom Van Vleck was the first to send a message within the same computer to another user in the mainframe. Leonard Kleinrock sent a message across two computers on the asme network. Ray Tomlinson sent a message across multiple users across multiple computers. But my concept of email was patently related to office mail. That’s what I built: a database, a networking infrastructure and software programming language for email.”

However, having discussed this with our in-house email developers who literally live and breathe email history, it seems that The Next Web might have missed out on some finer details here. It appears that V.A. Shiva wasn’t so much the father of email, rather the person that copyrighted a piece of software that he called ‘Email’. In fact, this copyright was made after the invention of SMTP. So he possibly isn’t the inventor of email as we know it today after all. It seems the background might not be as straightforward as it first looks. Technology eh?!

Shiva has developed a fascinating infographic to mark this so-called ‘anniversary’, which you can see below. You can also read his blog post. Just remember to take it all with a small pinch of salt!