I came to age in technology at a strange age, being at a start-up in 1979 in high school, then getting my EE degree at the University of Washington in the late 80s, before joining IBM.
For those of you not around and the time, by the time I got to the UW, we had email and could send messages worldwide with BITNET. However, it was not critical and not used as much as you might think. Actually, USENET was a much bigger part of any geeks life. USENET had an amazing impact on everything we did in academia, and I remember getting on MINIX USENET group and some geek from Europe saying that he was trying to do his own operating system. I was more hardware oriented, and I missed my chance to contribute to early Linux.
Where I first saw email becoming central to a culture is when I got to IBM. PROFS notes, or email, had a massive impact on the entire culture. The combination of calendar and email and the internal culture that had a terminal in every conference room would be familiar with most readers of Hacker news. You could have survived with what they offered in today's modern world.
The person responsible for the addition of email to PROFS was not influenced by what was happening in BITNET. The email in university was like a home brewed computer. I am not saying it wasn't important, but I'm saying that the adoption of email wasn't tied to this. However, the fact that IBM pushed email was as central as IBM creating a personal computer, only in this case it wasn't following Apple.
I saw an article on the founder of IBM PROFS email, and so I hunted him down on email while I was at IBM. I regret I cannot remember his name, but I wanted to say he was in research at Almaden, but this may be an human ECC error. However, I do remember that I wanted to know how obvious the creation of email was for everybody, and how much it was embraced. He stated at the time that most people thought that it would not be central to business life. Nobody saw the impact of email coming.
In the list of cognitive biases, we call it simply "Hindsight Bias."
It just goes to show how the obvious is not obvious until it happens.
My question, "What is happen today, that will be the next email that we are all missing?"
I can relate to a certain extent. I had the opportunity to interact with an early Google employee (Ex-professor) and I did't pursue or dive into that domain. I could have been more successful in a technical field. Now I do Program Management :)
But I wasn't really immersed in email until I joined Data General in the mid-eighties where the use of email as part of CEO (which I think is fair to describe as a PROFS competitor) was pervasive. But it was pervasive only within our company. During this period, I used email within other systems like Compuserve but the BBS world, for example, didn't really have the concept of email--you had private posts.
Over time, various systems got connected to the, by then, Internet but it wasn't until the relatively late nineties that you could start reliably assuming that most people were on email.
Then social impact: by popularizing near-instantaneous global written interpersonal communication we have removed the walled garden of national language, culture and politics. Suddenly, a great force of inertia demands that every profession, every social and political issue must be viewed within its truly global context. Of course, we're not quite there yet but it's a clear trajectory.
Connecting the hive mind was really a red pill moment for humanity.
May have to start calling "post office" the "cargo office" as cargo would be the only item physically sent.
It's frankly why we still use email for things that it's not really suited for
What worries me most though, is that some businesses and governments no longer appear willing to use e-mail for external formal communication at all. When I asked my bank (ING in the Netherlands) how I could e-mail them with a question, they stated that e-mail is no longer an option (not even via a web-form), and that I would have to use Twitter direct messages, Facebook, or a web-based chat-page for any digital communication with them.
E-mail may not be hip, but I do get to keep an archive with sent and received communications that I can easily backup and keep for future reference, just like I do with paper mail (at least the important stuff).
Wow, that's pretty ignorant to say the least.
Not sure this holds true anymore in practice. Try to set up your own email server, your emails will probably get sent to spam by gmail, yahoo etc. Sure, it is technically possible, but it is time consuming and still risky to use it for business. At least you can still use your own domain and switch providers (google apps, outlook etc).
That problem is so overstated it's not even funny. Your email will get sent to spam if your IP adress is blacklisted, or if you send spam. It's actually gotten harder to get blacklisted over time, as people has gotten more tolerant towards semi-spam ("newsletters" and stuff) and people are generally more conservative in blacklisting whole networks these days.
Don't misbehave. Don't be a bad net citizen. Get your net and DNS in order, and the default Debian set up of postfix will do you just fine. I do it and most of my customers over the years have done it too. Some outsource their spam filtering, a few outsource their whole email, but most outside the small startup world still tend to keep their own mail server.
Eventually I learned it was because Radix, my TLD registry, had noticed my domain on the Spamhaus Domain Blocklist. Who knows why it was added; I definitely hadn't been sending spam. Radix, being proactive, placed a 'serverHold' DNS status on my domain name, preventing it from resolving.
Luckily Spamhaus has an automated form for dealing with false positives. Eventually Radix removed the status. (Though, a week later it was back up, for no reason. Had to badger them for over a week to get the status removed again. Would not recommend them.) It's very lucky I wasn't trying to do anything with that domain like run a business, or rely on @<domainname> addresses to work.
TL;DR the problem is definitely not overstated.
Your registry could (and probably would) have put your domain on hold independently of where your MX points. Nothing short of choosing another TLD will protect you from your registry playing games with you.
That's not the kind of things I want to worry about. Most companies have business to run with problems of their own, thinking about DNS config and all the rules to be a good citizen (besides obvious spamming) sounds like headache and unneeded complexity to most companies. Not to mention backups, having to pay dedicated admins etc.
> most outside the small startup world still tend to keep their own mail server
Not sure about that:
email was store and forward by necessity. IM was anything but.
I wonder how much the economy would break down, and have to change, if email suddenly went away?
And even if someone doesn't use it that much for personal communication, it's part of the underlying net infrastructure (think account-creation verification emails, password reset emails, bank statements, etc).
Or suddenly went proprietary.
It might even happen.
Consider what would have happened if email was a patented, proprietary tech (like Twitter, Facebook, etc.) rather than open.
In my college OS class we had to build a *nix-like OS from the ground up and one of the required basic services we had to build was user-to-user messaging. After hacking out basic versions of "ls" and "cat" that was pretty much what we built next.
What was not so obvious, and much harder to do, and required something like the internet to solve was system-to-system mail transfer, which Tomlinson created. It turns out to be a strangely hard problem to do well. It's not hard to get it up and running, but the edge-cases and abuses have plagued us ever since. Maybe the problem is humans.
If you are going to torture an analogy, I say make it scream.
The future is, and will always be, awesome potential.
I'd only take away BCC feature from the email as a mistake, or useless. Email-lists should have been the true BCC.
Aren't there any poets here, who could pen a few couplets in his memory & respect? Just saying RIP to such a great Engineer, feels so not enough. Feel proud to call myself an Engineer, when such giants also call them one.
 - we have freedom via choice. If you use gmail/yahoo/etc you know you are doing a trade off. But its comforting to have choice.
As usual, technical people easily miss the marketing value of sound bites. He should have invented a clever and catchy story about the first email.
Technical people will immediately say that you can't do that because that would a lie, forgetting the thousand "lies" that we are all complicit in (Santa Claus, tooth fairy, "your tie/haircut looks nice", "sorry, I don't have any change to give you").
EBay founder Omidyar said that eBay was invented to trade Pez dispensers, a story he's now admitted is completely false, but no one seems to be too worked up over that. Apparently Omidyar understands the difference between a lie (has an actual negative effect on someone) and marketing fluff (makes for an interesting story but is just trivia).
For such an influential person--in the sense that he had a huge impact on the world--Tomlinson is completely unknown. I'm guessing that his financial reward for inventing email was essentially nothing as well.
Technical people, and people with integrity.
Did you tell your kids about Santa Claus? Did your parents tell you about Santa Claus? Does it follow that you or your parents lack integrity?
The world is not truth vs lies. There's more nuance. This illustrates why many brilliant technical people lacking marketing sense are relegated to obscurity.
I don't have kids, and if I ever do, I'll tell them Santa is a fun legend people like to play along with, but that it isn't real.
> Did your parents tell you about Santa Claus?
Yes, but by the time my sister was born, they had changed their tune to what I describe above, and she didn't seem to suffer any development ill effects, still enjoyed Christmas, etc.
Sometimes comments on HN make me worried that we're heading that direction.
Although obviously email was conceptually based on a very old notion of communication, embodied, as you point out, by many media that came before it, it had to solve a few small, specific problems inherent in moving messages from one system to another via a simple network protocol.
The use of the "user@domain" notion of identity seems mundane today, but in some important ways it was a huge breakthrough in the way that people thought about humans and the systems that need to work in order for them to be contacted.
Is it because the "@" form is more stand-alone while the "!" embeds with it a sense of what you think others might think is notable?
"Fact #2: Ray Tomlinson “did not invent email”,
he modified SNDMSG for exchanging text messages across computers - See more at: http://www.inventorofemail.com/claims_about_email.asp#False-...
It's even hard to take the claim that Shiva's invention was the first to mimic inter-office mail seriously: all of the header fields are clearly mentioned in RFC 680.
In other words, the only way that you can even plausibly claim that Shiva invented email is to define email so narrowly that the only candidate is, in fact, his product. This should come across about as absurd as saying that FORTRAN can't be the first programming language because it didn't include an if statement.
Despite his aggressive campaign to be recognized for something notable other than his participation in pseudoscience, marketing BS and corrupt government organizations, the rest of the world remains unconvinced. He had a single class he was teaching at MIT at the time all the media articles hit, in which he introcuded a new term that he used to aggressively market himself as an expert in an "emerging field". His various sites link between each other as proof of his excellence. This type of self-referential press is a specialty of his. He even directly edited his own Wikipedia article as part of his media campaign.
You'll note that the first paragraph ends in a sentence with a dozen "references". This is how his edits always look and the page was originally full of sentences with 5+ references, which made tracking down legitimate information quite difficult. It's undergone heavy editing since then, but he still drops in for edit wars.
There's a good chance that snake oil is involved if he's anywhere near a project.
'Ayyadurai later said it was not "a formal wedding or marriage", but a celebration of their "friendship in a spiritual ceremony with close friends and her family.'
( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiva_Ayyadurai )