[ih] Any suggestions for first uses of "e-mail" or "email"?

John Klensin jklensin at gmail.com
Tue Aug 4 07:58:02 PDT 2015

On Sat, Jul 25, 2015 at 5:43 PM, Jack Haverty <jack at 3kitty.org> wrote:
> After grubbing through my basement storage, I haven't found "email" in
> any of my piles of old paper....sorry about that.
> But I *do* recall the first time I saw the phrase "email", although not
> exactly where and when that was.
> Through the early and mid-70s, I was a student and subsequently staff
> member in Professor Licklider's group at MIT project MAC.  Lick had been
> promoting the ideas of man-computer synergy for a while -- how to use
> the power of the computer to augment human communications.   While I was
> there, he also returned for another tour of duty at ARPA; he bounced
> back and forth between MIT and ARPA.

> None of the terminology we discussed then included "email" or "e-mail".
> But I do still recall first seeing that term, and being discouraged that
> all of the work and discussions about the breadth of computer-aided
> human communications was being lumped into a single vague and ambiguous
> term "email" (or maybe "e-mail").
> The term was used in one of the trade publications popular at the time,
> which had grown up around the emerging technologies of computer
> networking.   I'm sorry I can't remember which one.  Most likely it was
> Network World, or Communications Week, which were very popular at the
> time and had discovered the world of networking.   It was a "newspaper"
> type of publication, not a magazine or journal.   The kind of thing you
> read while eating lunch.


My memory is very vague, and I certainly remember using just "mail"
(or, when the distinction was important, "network mail" or "netmail"
or other variations), but that part of the trade press seems likely as
an originator and time.  The other possibility that occurs to me is
that the term might have come out of one of the iterations with USPS
about what they thought about the whole situation, whether it was a
business they wanted to be in, own, or control, etc.  The first round,
with Tom Van Vleck and Noel Morris during the CTSS period has been
fairly well documented, but the were several others.   The stories I
heard from some of those who were involved in the discussions were, in
the rounds in which they cared,  the Post Office folks very clearly
did not want to make a distinction between traffic within a host or
between hosts.   Given that, and government bureaucrat-speak, one can
easily imagine "email" or "e-mail" coming out.   However, that is pure
speculation about another place to look, not any sort of claim or

    (who was working on Lick's other, larger, project at the time)

p.s. the recent micro-snit that spelled over onto the IETF list was
about the RFC Editor having introduced macros or a style sheet that
generated a spelling like "EMail" or "eMail".  I just couldn't imagine
any benefit from yet another term or spelling.

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