Email was the first type of computer-based human communications technologies. It started in 1965 with the exchange of simple text messages. Today, we take for granted that we can send email to anyone, but this was in fact very hard to achieve, and took some thirty years. Many now-forgotten hurdles had to be overcome, such as:

  • The development of a fast and inexpensive, and standard global data communications network: the internet
  • The development of a standard method of formatting messages, and transmitting them
  • Standard file display technologies (PDF providing this as of 2012)
  • Standard email addresses; ultimately we agreed upon the type of address, with two halves divided by an ampersand sign

Once these standards had been agreed upon, a further set of challenges arose. These included:

  • Virus control was now more difficult, since viruses could now be transmitted very rapidly. Previously, transmission was typically by floppy diskettes, and thus took place much more slowly.
  • New types of malware appeared, such as phishes (where a fake email tricks you into providing sensitive information).
  • Email stores had been transitory repositories of current email. Users started to build their own very large stores, containing aging material.
  • Lawyers learned about the value of information in the message stores, and demanded that hard-to-identify emails be produced very quickly.
  • Spam

Many materials in the museum reflect these challenges, and how vendors and IT professionals. A selection are displayed here.--David Ferris

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