A brief history of Email

Univac Mainframe History of Email

In our brief history of Email, we find that Email was, as with many things, an offshoot of military technology.

In the early 1960s, the Pentagon had its research arm, the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) embark on a project to link its key computing systems in order to be able to survive and respond to a global crisis (such as a Soviet nuclear missile strike).

The result was a project called ARPANET, which created the world’s first computer network and linked military and academic computing systems.  The world’s first Email message was sent in 1971 between two ARPANET computers that had rudimentary mailbox capabilities.  The network continued to grow through the 1970s, and in 1983, the network was split into a military-only branch (MILNET), and ARPANET, which remained for civilian use.

A key breakthrough in the brief history of Email was the adoption of the TCP/IP protocol in 1983, which allowed computers on different networks to communicate with each other through a simple, efficient, and consistent communication protocol still in use today.

In 1983, MCI introduced MCIMail, which was followed by similar Email programs from Prodigy, CompuServe, and America Online (AOL).  In the late 1980s, Lotus and Microsoft introduced products geared at bringing business Email to widespread corporate use.  Throughout the 1990s, there was rapid expansion as more companies and institutions joined the Internet, significant advances were made in telecommunication technologies, and reduced costs for computers and telecom devices made them more easily accessible.

As we move forward in our brief history of Email, by the late 1990s, Email growth was rapid, and by 2000, Email had become the dominant mode of communication in most business environments.