Friday, July 17, 2009

Mail, e-Mail, and More e-Mail

Most people believe that e-mail was invented after the internet.

These are not the same people who believe that Al Gore invented the internet. I am referring to the majority of folks out there who never experienced e-mail until they were on the internet. In fact it’s totally reasonable to believe that e-mail was invented after the internet… but it’s just not true.

Take a trip down nostalgia lane with me….

When I first became a manager in late 1984, the highlight of my day was the mail delivery. My secretary spent most of her day preparing this special bundle. (This was long before it became politically incorrect to call assistants secretaries.)

Each day my mail was delivered to me at 3pm. in a manila folder, opened and sorted. All the important stuff I had to do came in that folder. I would handwrite responses for the action items, which my secretary would type and return to me the next day for my review and signature before it went out…. with a stamp.

And, despite the fact that I worked for a large IT corporation, the secretaries used typewriters for this illustrious task.

But that wasn’t the only mail we had. From the very first day I started work in 1979, we had electronic mail.

The early e-mail systems were primitive… arguably something that only computer types would bother with… but it was fast! If you sent a note, the receiver had it instantly. By the early 1980’s we were using a more advanced electronic mail system. It was called a Professional Office System (great name, huh?). It ran on a mainframe.

You could send electronic mail to anyone in the company. There were no ‘lost’ e-mails… no servers that went down… no e-mails stuck in the limbo of the system somewhere… and no need for firewalls. The system was secure because it never left the company. It ran on the company’s intranet and stayed inside the company’s hallowed walls.

There was no such thing as SPAM. And virtually every e-mail I received I wanted to read. Of course, the number of e-mails I received each day could be counted on one hand.

When do you remember your first electronic mail?


Anon_e_mouse said...

They didn't give us email in the field engineering branch office... I don't remember when I first had access to the corporate email system, probably around 1985 or so. Mainframe, of course... I probably checked it once a week, just in case someone had sent me something.

Firefly said...

Anon e mouse -- can you imagine what it would be like in that job today? You'd probably be doing everything on a mobile device.