Forty years ago, engineer Ray Tomlinson sent the first electronic mail message. No one remembers now what the message said, only that it was short and difficult to compose. But whatever it said, it changed the communications picture forever.
When he showed his work to a colleague, he was told firmly, “Don’t go telling anyone! That’s not what we’re supposed to be doing.” Tomlinson never profited from his pioneering work, but his story of the creation of email, and how he came to use the “@” symbol to direct messages between networks, is fascinating and available online here.
Here are a few of the milestones that email passed over the last four decades:
- 1976: Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain became the first head of state to send an electronic mail message.
- 1979: The first email ad arrived on the ARPANET network of government and university computers.
- 1982: The word email enters the dictionary — and Scott Fahlman creates the first smiley “emoticon”.
- 1989: Radio man Elwood Edwards records AOL’s “You’ve got mail” message.
- 1997: Microsoft buys Hotmail for $400 million — and launches Microsoft Outlook later that same year.
- 1998: The Oxford English Dictionary codified the word “spam” as a permanent part of the language.
- 1999: The first email “urban legend” is widely circulated to millions — a tale of how Bill Gates will send money to Internet users as part of a plan to share his wealth.
- 2003: George W. Bush signs the CAN-SPAM Act into US law.
- 2004: LOL, ROFL, LMAO and other Internet Acronyms selected for the Oxford English Dictionary.
- 2007: Google launches Gmail.
Of course, there are many other milestones in a four-decade history of email. One constant since commercial email began to take up more and more in box space is the fact that marketers constantly try to improve their messages so that recipients will open them and take action — and recipients try to filter out as much unwanted commercial mail as possible.
If you’re among the many marketers who are always in search of practical ways to improve your email campaigns, check out the free white paper filled with useful tips on improving content, ensuring delivery, complying with regulations, and getting results by sending your campaigns at the right time. It’s available for download here.