Educational CyberPlayGround ®

Mail Box Protocol @ was originally used as shorthand for amphora



The Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) was begun at MIT in 1961. It allowed multiple users to log into the the 7094 from remote dial-up terminals, and to store files online on disk.

Tom Van Vleck was the guy who wrote the CTSS Mail command in 1965.

"Mail Box Protocol"

Richard W. Watson, thought of a way to deliver messages and files to printers at remote sites. He filed his "Mail Box Protocol" dated Jul-20-1971 as a draft standard under RFC 196, but the protocol was never implemented. What the site did with such mail afterward was its problem. It is not clear this protocol was ever implemented. However, the ARPANET network was used as the connection between the two.

The First Email 1972
Ray Tomlinson worked as a computer engineer for Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), the company hired by the United States Defense Department to build the first Internet in 1968. His first email was sent between two computers that were actually sitting next to each other. At first you could only leave messages on the computer that you were using for other persons using that computer to read. Then Tomlinson used a file transfer protocol that he was working on called CYPNET to adapt the SNDMSG program so it could send electronic messages to any computer on the ARPA network. Ray's achievement was to choose the @ symbol to separate username from host name in mail addresses; to tell which user was "at" what computer, The first email message was "QWERTYUIOP". Ray Tomlinson is quoted as saying he invented email,"Mostly because it seemed like a neat idea." No one was asking for email. However, electronic mail had existed for years when he made his invention.

1975 Steve Walker, an ARPA program manager, establishes first mailing list concerning ARPANET. Satellite links across two oceans to Hawaii and UK are formed, and the first TCP tests are layered over them by Stanford, BBN, and UCL.

2010 The Smithsonian is spreading this lie
that V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai: invented email, which is might be good for making the smithsonian money but only proves you can't believe what the smithsonian and the washington post say and print.
He invented email and the To/From/cc/bcc fields in 1978?
His company's "About" page even claims he's known
as "Dr. Email" (, and each of these bogus articles and pages from the Smithsonian, the Post, Time Magazine, and the Huffington Post claims that he "received the first U.S. Copyright on E-MAIL". But of course you can't copyright a word.
His copyright was for an email *program*, written in Fortran for an HP 1000 computer, more than a decade after the invention of email, which he did not invent. Every V7 UNIX system came with email (and uucp to network it over phone lines), before the teenaged Professor wrote a line of email code.

"Early email was just a small advance on what we know these days as a file directory - it just put a message in another user's directory in a spot where they could see it when they logged in. Simple as that. Just like leaving a note on someone's desk.
Probably the first email system of this type was MAILBOX, used at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1965. Another early program to send messages on the same computer was called SNDMSG.
Some of the mainframe computers of this era might have had up to one hundred users -often they used what are called "dumb terminals" to access the mainframe from their work desks. Dumb terminals just connected to the mainframe - they had no storage or memory of their own, they did all their work on the remote mainframe computer.
Before internetworking began, therefore, email could only be used to send messages to various users of the same computer. Once computers began to talk to each other over networks, however, the problem became a little more complex - We needed to be able to put a message in an envelope and address it. To do this, we needed a means to indicate to whom letters should go that the electronic posties understood - just like the postal system, we needed a way to indicate an address.
This is why Ray Tomlinson is credited with inventing email in 1972. Like many of the Internet inventors, Tomlinson worked for Bolt Beranek and Newman as an ARPANET contractor. He picked the @ symbol from the computer keyboard to denote sending messages from one computer to another. So then, for anyone using Internet standards, it was simply a matter of nominating name-of-the-user@name-of-the-computer. Internet pioneer Jon Postel, who we will hear more of later, was one of the first users of the new system, and is credited with describing it as a "nice hack". It certainly was, and it has lasted to this day.
By 1974 there were hundreds of military users of email because ARPANET eventually encouraged it. Email became the saviour of Arpanet, and caused a radical shift in Arpa's purpose.
Things developed rapidly from there. Larry Roberts invented some email folders for his boss so he could sort his mail, a big advance. In 1975 John Vital developed some software to organize email. By 1976 email had really taken off, and commercial packages began to appear. Within a couple of years, 75% of all ARPANET traffic was email.
Email took us from Arpanet to the Internet. Here was something that ordinary people all over the world wanted to use.
As Ray Tomlinson observed some years later about email, "any single development is stepping on the heels of the previous one and is so closely followed by the next that most advances are obscured. I think that few individuals will be remembered." That's true - to catalogue all the developments would be a huge task.” ~ Ian Peter


1976 The Queen of England Queen Elizabeth II makes early network history by sending an email email announcing that the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment in Malvern, is available on the ARPANET system. According to the Queen's Royal Archives, the brief message was sent on March 26, 1976. Additional information only included the names of the computers that were used over ARPANET
Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Elizabeth II email message (1976). Berkshire, England: The Royal Collection Trust, Windsor Castle. [19 June 2000].

By 1978, 75% of Arpanet traffic was email.

What's that @ all about?
@ was originally used as shorthand for "amphora", a measure of capacity based on terracotta jars used to transport grain and wine in the ancient Mediterranean world.

  • 1) Historians in Italy have traced the origins of the @ symbol back to a Florentine merchant, writing in 1536, according to The Guardian.
  • 2) Giorgio Stabile, professor of science at La Sapienza University, claims that he has unearthed the earliest known use of the symbol in a letter documenting the bounty contained within a ship arrived from Latin America. Stabile said the sign had made its way along trade routes to northern Europe where we turned it into the "commercial at."
  • 3) In Spain, it is known as arroba which means a weight of six gallons, Italians call it a snail, others call it the elephant's trunk, a monkey's tail and even a cinnamon roll.

Geoff Goodfellow invented wireless email in the early 80's while at SRI -- the late internet protocol czar Jon Postel assigned him "port 99" for his tinkering. In the late 80's he founded the second commercial Internet company, Anterior Technology, as well as founding, RadioMail, the first wireless Internet business in the early 90's. BIO

From: Peter Bachman Date: June 10, 2004 3:00:56 AM EDT Subject: [spam] letter from Jon Postel

Got an email addressed from Jon Postel today. Of course it was an infected W32.Netsky.D Worm that had scanned through someone's hard drive for email addresses, and not an message from the great beyond being channeled through a DSL connection.
Still it's a self-generated ironic comment by the network, on the sad state of email within the network. The great computational expense generated by sending spam out into the network is obviously wasted on trying to sell Viagra; that much bandwidth and computing power is evolving into something else; perhaps a very primitive early form of network intelligence that's linking up bits of information in odd, but somewhat predictable ways.
Now if the "random spam monkeys" can type up and send me an unpublished mss from I can make money fast. I'll be waiting near the trash bin of my bayseian filters looking for submissions.

Peter Bachman

How Email lists were invented.

The First Spam?
Brad Templeton wrote a nice article on the history of spam on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the DEC salesman ARPANet spam. There was an earlier mass electronic mail message sent to a large community of unwilling readers [my definition of spam] that predates the 1978 DEC spam. This message was sent using CTSS MAIL about 1971, at a time of campus unrest and anti-war rallies. By the start of the 70s, there were over a thousand users of MIT's CTSS system, using the system by dial-up from the MIT campus and from other, mostly academic, locations. They used mail to coordinate, share information on all kinds of topics, etc, just as now. At that time, I led the system programming group for some of MIT's services including CTSS, and I was mighty displeased one day, probably about 1971, to discover that one of my team had abused his privilege to send a long anti-war message to every user of CTSS that began.

Fred Cohen first thought up the idea and wrote the first virus in November 1983 as a University of Southern California graduate student. During a weekly seminar on computer security, he conceived of a program that could infect other systems with copies of itself. This University of New Haven professor introduced the term "virus" to the lexicon of computers. His adviser at the time, Len Adleman--well known as a creator of public-key encryption and the "A" in a popular form of the security technology known as RSA (Rivest, Shamir & Adleman)--suggested that the programs were the digital analogy of viruses. The name stuck. Cohen used the phrase in a 1984 research paper, in which he described threats self-propagating programs pose and explored potential defenses against them. When he asked for funding from the National Science Foundation three years later to further explore countermeasures, and they said it wasn't of current interest. Two decades later, countless companies and individuals are still paying for that mistake.

For the Sake of History ;-)

Subject: Filtering Mail in Navigator 2.0 and 3.


Issue: 970820-79
Product: Navigator
Created: 08/20/97
Version: 2.x, 3.x
Last Updated: 10/24/97
OS: Win3.1/3.11, Win95, WinNT

Netscape Navigator 4.0 and later have a graphical interface for automatic filing/filtering of mail messages. Earlier versions did not have this UI.

However, for those of you still using 2.0 or 3.0, there is a way to filter mail messages, though it doesn't have a graphical interface.

(This feature was officially dropped from the 2.0 product before its release, but it turns out that the underlying code was never actually removed; there is just no simple interface to it.)

Don't rely on this. It is untested. It is hard to use. It's not supported. It's not even a claimed ``feature.'' It doesn't work in news. It has many limitations. Treat it as ``as is'' if at all.

To filter your mail, you create a text file describing the rules:

On Windows, this file is called ``sort.dat'' and goes in the ``nsmail'' directory along with your mail folders.

On MacOS, it's called ``Mail Filters'' and goes in the ``Mail'' directory, which you will find in the Netscape Preferences folder (that is, ``Disk: System Folder:Preferences:Netscape:Mail''.)

On Unix, it's called ``mailsort'' and goes in your ``~/.netscape/'' directory.

When you use the ``Get Mail'' command, this file is consulted for each new message to decide where to put it. In the file, each line describes a pattern and an action to take. The first line which is matched by a message is executed, and subsequent matches are ignored. If no line matches, the message is left in your Inbox folder, as normal.

The lines have three fields, seperated by spaces or tabs: the file name of the destination folder; the name of a header field to consult; and a substring to look for in that header field. For example:

Windows: (nsmail\sort.dat)

# Put any messages that contain "mailer-daemon" in

# the "From:" field into a mail folder called "bounces"

# bounces From mailer-daemon

# Put mail about my home page in a mail folder

# called "fan-mail" that is in an (already-existing)

# subdirectory called "personal"

# personal\fan-mail Subject your home page

Macintosh: (Netscape:Mail:Mail Filters)

bounces From mailer-daemon

# Note: Mac uses slash to separate directories, not colon.

personal/fan-mail Subject your home page

Unix: (.netscape/mailsort)

# Note: Unix requires the full pathname.

/u/xyz/nsmail/bounces From mailer-daemon

/u/xyz/nsmail/personal/fan-mail Subject your home page

Lines beginning with ``#'' are comments. Blank lines are ignored.

You can filter on any header field.

If a message contains more than one header of the same name, only the first (topmost) of those headers is examined.

Comparisons are done case-sensitively, and all comparisons ask the question ``contains'' -- there is no provision for exact matches, or for regular expressions.

Mail files will be created as necessary, but directories will not. That is, in the above examples, while the mail file named fan-mail need not exist first, the subdirectory which contains it (personal) would need to have been created by hand.

If one of your folders has a name that contains a space, you will need to enclose it in double-quotes ("").