About Threads


The History of Email

The Need

Electronic mail has existed since the 1960s. It has been around as long as people could share the same computer at the same time. Email as we know it today moves a message between users who are on different machines. It goes across a network. This capablity dates to 1971.

This site is meant as a focal point for recitations and artifacts of the history of electronic mail. This site is still very much under development and is being produced as a collaborative effort.


This is a very nascent effort to capture the sequence of 'significant' occurrences in the evolution of electronic mail. Significance can be first occurrence (invention), standardization or market-oriented promulgation (commercialization):

Timeline (very rough draft)

Please pursue discussion of this on the mailhist mailing list.



One goal for this site is to develop a consensus view of email's history. That requires discussion. Over time, there are likely to be specialized discussion groups.

The current discussion venue is::



Efforts to recount the history of email, most (all?) of which also cite many additional primary sources.

The Technical Development of Internet Email; C. Partridge

Talking Headers; Where Wizards Stay Up Late; K. Hafner

Billions Served Daily and Counting, K. Hafner, New York Times, 6 Dec 2001: pages F1, F9

The history of email; Ian Peter

Email; Wikipedia

Email History; The Living Internet; Bill Stewart

History of Email & Ray Tomlinson; M. Ellis;

The First Email Message: Who sent it, and when?; Heinz Tschabitscher;

The History of Electronic Mail; Tom Van Vleck

The History of the Internet: 1957 - 1976; The History of Computing Project

Networked E-mail; A Culture of Innovation: Insider Accounts of Computing and Life at BBN; D. Walden (ed.)

The Evolution of ARPANET email; Ian R. Hardy, History Thesis Paper, University of California at Berkeley, spring 1996

Email History through RFCs; Steve Atkins, 1 Sep 2014.


Efforts to list works that discuss email history:

Notes and citations for the development of email, Dave Walden

Comments concerning this site should be sent to: