Home M3AAWG Blog Happy 50th Birthday, Email!

It’s hard to imagine a workplace or home now without email. Whether we use it to exchange information, schedule events or stay updated on family, friends and the world at large, email has become a ubiquitous part of our everyday existence. 

The first ever email sent over a network -- the beginning of email as we use it today -- was sent 50 years ago, in October 1971 by MIT graduate Ray Tomlinson.

Ray Tomlinson (April 23, 1941 – March 5, 2016) introduced the convention of the ‘@’ symbol to identify a message recipient on a remote computer system, and using this ‘@’ symbol format, Ray was the first person to send an email between two computers.

Ray sent the first email to himself, with the email travelling 10 feet between two computers he was testing on in a building in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ray has stated when interviewed that the first email was “something like QWERTYUIOP”.

In 1976 the Queen of England became the first head of state to use email. Various groups then began to develop their own services, with Microsoft Mail hitting the market in 1988. A year later, Compuserve debuted along with LotusNotes and other flavors. Email became an expected communication service, provided by most residential Internet Service Providers(ISPs), as the necessity for connected people to obtain a contact address increased. It’s hard to imagine online commerce, signing up for insurance or financial services or doing almost anything without an email address. Email addresses became our online identities.  

Of course, inevitably, as soon as a viable consumer base was established, email started being abused for malicious activities. Spam was first documented in the early 1990s, followed by an explosion of email providers including AOL (who can forget the 1998 movie You’ve Got Mail). 

That abuse is where M3AAWG comes in. Formed to ensure the ongoing viability of Tomlinson’s creation, the group of mail providers and security companies work together to collaborate on safer online experiences, preventing abuse and helping secure email. These efforts have resulted over the years in useful and effective cybersecurity lessons, identifying issues related to email and applying those lessons to other cybersecurity and defense efforts. 

We encourage M3AAWG members to mark the #50yrsofemail #QWERTYUIOP as we collectively continue our collaboration to protect and defend the online experience and prevent abuse. Share your thoughts, anecdotes and stories on social media using #50yrsofemail #QWERTYUIOP #M3AAWG


The views expressed in DM3Z are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect M3AAWG policy.