I have a surprise for you. The inventor of email did not invent email. Email was actually invented by the Bell System and was in commercial operation long before the Arpanet even existed. This is an interesting story…
The Real Story
Back before the Arpanet existed, there was email on a wide-scale basis. It was called #1 ESS ADF. This system is so utterly obscure that there is no Wikipedia article for it. Formally, it was known as the “No. #1 Electronic Switching System Arranged with Data Features.”
- It could support terminals using BAUDOT or ASCII codesets as well as the IBM 360, and it could interchange between these transparently. It could also convert between various speeds and types of devices, since messages were “Store and Forward”.
- It allowed group addressing. Preset group addresses could be given names up to 7 characters.
- Up to 379 destination addresses could be specified for a single message.
- Messages could be given priorities: Urgent, Rush, Normal, and Deferred.
- Messages were timestamped and sequenced to confirm their authenticity.
- Multiple time-zone support of dates.
- Statistics and reporting was provided.
- If a message was undeliverable it could be forwarded or rerouted.
- Addresses could be forwarded to a temporary alternate address.
- A message could be flagged for storage on a permanent magnetic tape file.
Photo of the message store for the 1ESS ADF:(The big square is the 60-megabit disk drive…about 7.5 Megabytes.)