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

Jack Haverty jack at 3kitty.org
Fri Aug 7 13:12:01 PDT 2015

On 08/04/2015 02:42 PM, dave.walden.family at gmail.com wrote:
> Jack,
> I feel like we, at least at BBN, wrote lots of published papers, e.g., see
>     http://walden-family.com/bbn/ArpanetInternetBiblio.pdf  
> I think the good news from Andy's post is that academic historians are monitoring the ih list.
> Dave

Hi Dave,

That bibliography will be very helpful to historians.   I agree there
were quite a few papers published over the years.

My point really was that there was also lots of material of historical
interest that didn't get published in the traditional way, especially
over the period starting when network mechanisms such as email,
newsgroups, and FTP became core infrastructure tools for everyone who
had access to them.

The network changed the environment for human collaboration.  In the
traditional ways, discussion and debate would occur by a series of
papers and presentations, published over months if not years.  In the
new network way, similar discussions and debates occurred, in hours or
days, over mail conversations, mailing lists, newsgroups, etc.  Only a
part of that was captured in formal means which survive today.  IMHO, it
was unfortunately a pretty small part.

Of course, those electronic interactions happened much more rapidly, and
much more broadly, than the older mechanisms.   IMHO, this was important
for the success of the Internet, by enhancing its ability to adapt
quickly as it grew explosively.

There is a period of time, perhaps from about 1975 through the 80s,
where archival of such interactions was spotty.  It's gotten better now
with the advent of vast searchable gleaning databases, but that
generally still only captures material from the web, which is only a
part of the communication over the network.   At least the ones that are

I think the network, i.e., the ARPANET and its successor The Internet,
changed the way that people interact, and changed the culture of how
such interactions were recorded, if at all.   Rough consensus, achieved
over ephemeral means, and running code didn't leave as much of a trail
of papers and publications in their wake.


The other point I was trying to bring out is that the History of The
Internet is about more than the history of the technology.   Or
"technologies" if you include all of the other networking activities in
other commercial and organizational R&D.

For example, there are a lot of publications concerning various aspects
of the ARPANET and the technology it developed.   But there is very
little (that I have found) concerning how the ARPANET was used, and how
its technology diffused into the broader world beyond DoD.

One of the historians I spoke with lamented the situation.   He can find
data today that describes the traffic flows across the early net, the
numbers of computers connected, number of sites, and other such
historically interesting information.  But it is difficult to find
anything that describes what those users were actually doing over the
network, how it was changing their worlds, what their reactions were,
and how they were adapting to it.

Similarly, the ARPANET was a very important network, and comparatively
well documented.  But there were also at least dozens of clones of the
ARPANET that BBN deployed into numerous other government environments,
and subsequently into commercial and industrial applications in finance,
manufacturing, communications, transportation, etc.

It's difficult to find even a list of such networks, let alone details
about their use, and how they impacted the related businesses.

IMHO, such events are an important part of Internet History, in their
role to "pave the way" for widespread adoption of Internet technology as
it went from research project to world infrastructure.  That roadway
included some interactions that I think would be historically interesting.

For example, during the 80s the ARPANET technology embraced X.25, and
deployed networks following the CCITT vision, presumably paving the way
for adoption of the CCITT/ISO approach.  But I don't think much of that
story about that era of ARPANET evolution was written, except in the
informal world of emails and such.

The ARPANET also served, at the same time, as the nursery for the
fledgling Internet, as people connected routers to the ARPANET instead
of the traditional timesharing computers.   It paved the way for the
Internet to grow, and the ARPANET itself had to adapt its mechanisms to
the new ways it was being used.  But I don't think there's much written
material about that battle between TCP/IP and X.25 in the ARPANET arena.

I think this was a general effect, and many other institutions did very
interesting work which is hard to unearth - especially those hidden
behind non-disclosures and other such proprietary barriers as tech
companies fought to be leaders in the new world.

It *is* good to see professional historians involved!  I wish we had
such presences back in the 70s/80s.  Perhaps DARPA and other research
groups should have a historian on staff just for such purposes to
capture whatever they're doing now....

My caution to historians would be to be especially wary of the "Early
Networking" era when human interactions first embraced electronic
mechanisms, before it was common to capture everything.

Leo Vegoda said: "As long as these sources are archived and remain
available there's every chance for a far more accurate history of
the development of networking emerging than there is of the
emergence of technologies like working iron."

I think that's a good point.  My caution is that with the ARPANET we
entered a new world where the "archiving and availability" machinery has
hit a few potholes in the Road of History.

This Internet History discussion has been held on a mailing list,
archived on some server somewhere ... I wonder how long it will survive.
  Through the 70s/80s and beyond, there were many, many discussions just
like this one, where ideas were debated and decisions were made outside
of the traditional publication mechanisms.

/Jack Haverty

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