Ah, serendipity! Today it led me from a kitchen calendar to the invention of network email.
The Milk Calendar is an annual tradition in Canada, and there’s always one hanging on my kitchen wall. The calendar is a free insert in the weekend newspaper each year, in mid-November.
I’ve stopped getting the daily paper though, and read the news on my iPad every morning. Fortunately, I found the Dairy Farmers of Canada website, where you can order a free calendar (unless you live in Quebec, or the Territories).
The Milk Calendar Timeline
On their website, I clicked to see the milk calendar timeline, which is pretty bad, with the years out of order in several places. One of the early events was in 1971, when Ray Tomlinson invented email:
First email is sent. The first email is sent between two side-by-side computers.
Ray Tomlinson Website
I don’t remember hearing about Ray Tomlinson before, and a Google search led me to his personal website, where you can see an old teletype keyboard, with the infamous @ character on the “P” key. You can also see the two side-by-side computers involved in the first network email.
Ray also answers some FAQs, and clears up some common mistakes about that first network email. He says:
Probably the only true statements about that first email are the it was all upper case (shouted) and the content was insignificant and forgetable (hence the amnesia).
Email to the Next Desk
What struck me about this story was the emphasis on the fact that the first network email only went to the next desk. These days, we can send email anywhere in the world, but I’ll bet that the majority of them just go down the hall, or into the next cubicle.
Some of my emails go to clients who are across the continent, or to friends on the other side of the world. But several emails a day actually go to myself – if I’m reading something on the iPad, I’ll send the link to my Outlook email, for follow-up later.
How about you? Is most of your email just going to the next desk?