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.