There are many things which we label as boring not guessing that their origin and evolution may hide interesting surprises. Email is one of such things. Few people know when the first email was sent, how spam appeared and how it differs from email marketing, why we include “@” in domain names, and what kind of emails were sent by the Queen of Britain. That's why we invite you to join us on the journey through time in order to see what email has gone through over its 50-year history. Fasten your seatbelts, folks!
Forever in History Records
1. First email.
An American programmer Raymond Samuel Tomlinson is the father of the first personal email. In late 1971, he sent an email to a nearby computer. It might have looked like "QWERTYUIOP," according to Tomlinson who actually forgot the original version.
2. The Queen and email.
On March 26, 1976, Elizabeth II, the Queen of the United Kingdom, sent her first email during a visit to the Royal Radar Establishment in Malvern. They even created Her Majesty a personal account, HME2. Rumors have it the Queen has always been on a friendly footing with the digital world and often used email for public and personal purposes. She would always write to her grandchildren during their studies, and in 2009 the Queen sent an email to 23 young bloggers living in the former territories of the British Empire. The subject line said "A Message from Her Majesty the Queen," and the email was signed off with short and friendly "Elizabeth R."
3. E-mail or email?
Whatever your answer is, you’re right. The inventor of email Tomlinson preferred the hyphened option. In an interview, he once joked: "I'm simply trying to conserve the world's supply of hyphens. Plus, the term has been in use long enough to drop the hyphen. It seems to be a losing battle, however." Google Trends proves it.
4. Email address before "@."
First emails were sent via a structure similar to FTP (File Transport Protocol), so back in the days the email address might have looked like utzoo! Decvax! Harpo! Eagle! Mhtsa! Ihnss! Ihuxp! or grg. Each "!" used to refer to a particular computer, and the user acted as a human router, directing a message.
5. Evolution of “@.”
The @ symbol was also used by Raymond Tomlinson to indicate a host the email was sent from. The @ symbol was borrowed from payment documents, where it substituted a preposition "at." @ enabled emails to reach the inbox of the recipient, and the addresses acquired a new look: patrik@computer1.
6. How you say @ in different languages.
In English, @ probably has the most unoriginal name - a short and boring “at.” However, other languages may boast of better imagination; some names involve no visible analogies at all.
Armenia - “ishnik,” meaning a “puppy.”
China - “quan ei,” meaning “circled A.”
Denmark - “snabela,” meaning an “elephant’s trunk A.”
Germany - “klammeraffe,” meaning a “cling monkey.”
Hungary - “kukac,” meaning a “worm” or “maggot.”
Italy - “chiocciola,” meaning a “snail.”
Kazakhstan - “aikulak,” meaning a “moon’s ear.”
Greece - “papaki,” meaning a “little duck.”
Russia - “sobachka,” meaning a “cute dog.”
Slovenia - “zavinac,” meaning a “pickled fish roll.”
Ukraine - “ravlik,” or “vukho,” meaning a “snail” or “ear.”
7. The first email from space.
The first email from space came on August 28, 1991. Astronauts Shannon Lucid and James S. Adamson sent a message to their colleague Marcia Ivins, a shuttle communicator at the Johnson Space Center. Here's what it said:
It was the time when Terminator 2 took the movie theatres by storm.
8. The first free email agent.
The first free email agent appeared in 1996. It was Hotmail.com, which we today know as Outlook.com, after it joined Microsoft.
9. The most common password.
The most popular password for email protection is "123456." The world knew about this in 2009, when more than 10,000 Hotmail passwords were given to the public.
10. Email upgraded Morse code.
In 2004, the symbol "@" was added to Morse code to encode email addresses. The corresponding signal is as following: · - · - ·. This is the only official change in Morse code since World War I.
11. The size of a mailbox is smaller than your favorite song.
In the late 1990s, Hotmail and Yahoo account was only 4Mb in size. It's even smaller than the size of one modern track.
12. Revolution by Gmail.
Taking into account the previous fact, it’s no surprise that the launch of Gmail on April 1, 2004, who offered free 1GB of storage space was taken as a joke.
13. Emoji in email.
Kevin McKenzie sent the first email with a smiley on April 12, 1979. His smiley face was the symbol -) which meant “tongue in cheek.” McKenzie also asked the Message Services Group to add emotions to the impersonal digital language.
14. Email is going public.
The first email standard was proposed in 1973. In 1977, it underwent some modifications, including the appearance of the “to” and “from” fields, and the ability to forward emails to people who were not initially recipients. As we know, modern email agents have much bigger functionality. For example, Gmail emails have more than 30 useful features, and their number grows on a regular basis.
15. More than text.
The attachment was born in 1992 after the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (Mime) was released. That marked the beginning of the painful attempts to delete emails to make space after someone sends you a massive attachment: back in those days the inbox space was rather limited.
16. Email popularization.
Email secured its position in the public consciousness thanks to the "you’ve got mail" sound that accompanied every new message in the AOL. This very sound formed the cornerstone of You’ve Got Mail, a romantic comedy of 1998 starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
17. Email becomes mobile-friendly.
The first iPhone by Apple enabling to use mobile email was released in 2007.
18. Emails to favorite characters.
In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer revealed his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Matt Selman, one of the show's producers, first answered the incoming mail, but it soon became an impossible mission due to the huge number of messages sent every day. A bit later, somebody hacked Homer’s inbox and began sending spam to active addresses.
19. White House and email.
Over his eight years as president, Bill Clinton sent only two emails, one of which was a test one. Unlike his predecessor, Barack Obama actively used emails, and they helped him earn $690 million for his presidential campaign. Everyone could donate $3 and win a lunch with the future president. Obama's team took their email campaign more than seriously: they conducted many tests on the effectiveness of the email’s subject line, body and landing pages.
20. ILOVEYOU - a virus that has entered the Guinness Book of Records.
From May 1 to May 5, 2000, the mailworm caused $1.54 billion damage and attacked 3.1 million computers worldwide. It mutated three times in 4 days. The virus sent itself to all available contacts in the MS Outlook agent after the malicious email was opened. It got to the Guinness Book of Records due to the colossal damage to the world economy.
The Dark Side of Email - SPAM
21. The origin of the word SPAM.
The word spam first appeared as a name of canned pork that was very popular during World War II. Decades later, in the 1970s, the word spam gained new popularity thanks to a sketch by the English comedy group Monty Python. It was used to describe something repetitive and irritating.
22. SPAM added to the Oxford Dictionary.
In 1998, the term was officially added to the Oxford Dictionary, as unwanted emails became part of the digital world.
23. The first attempt to send spam.
On May 3, 1978, the Internet witnessed a rather unwelcome event: the first-ever spam message. Gary Turk, a marketer at Digital Equipment Corporation, has sent a campaign to 400 people, promoting the company's mini-computer. That earned them a $13 million profit.
24. The first commercial SPAM.
Any attempt to send unwanted messages pales beside a campaign sent on April 12, 1994, from an American law company. The recipient base included 6,000 contacts. The campaign targeted emigrants and promoted the company of Lawrence Kanter and Martha Siegel offering help with getting green cards.
25. Spam automation.
Botnets (a combination of a "robot" and "network") were first used to send spam in 2003, resulting in a dramatic spam increase. Before, spam was sent manually to addresses from mailing lists.
26. Top 10 spam generator countries.
According to Spamhaus statistics as of June 29, 2019, the list is the following:
1. The United States.
3. Russian Federation.
6. United Kingdom.
8. Hong Kong.
27. Where professionals live.
The United States is home to 5 of the 10 worst spammers worldwide.
28. Profit from spam.
Statistically, spammers receive one response to 12.5 million messages sent. Nevertheless, they still get about $3.5 million a year.
29. Almost half of the emails - SPAM.
Spam accounts for 48.16% of mail traffic worldwide, based on the data from January 2014 to March 2019.
30. Fighting SPAM.
In 2005, there was introduced the first email standard that attempted to verify senders and fight spam emails. Its development took five years and was followed by the rise of anti-spam programs and authentication standards aimed to avoid fake addresses, which was later called Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM).
Modern Email and Technology
31. Email is safe and sound.
In 2018, the number of email users worldwide was 3.8 billion, and in 2023 it should increase to 4.4 billion.
32. "Alexa, read my email."
In December 2018, Amazon updated Alexa Voice Service. It now can notify how many unread emails have been stocked in your inbox over the last 24 hours, as well as read the subject line and sender, respond to emails or delete them, archive emails, and even recognize emoji. As for now, it still can’t unsubscribe, move emails to spam, or compose a new email.
33. Mobile devices are coming forward.
Up to 60% of emails are read on mobile devices, according to IBM report. Indicators depend on the industry. Email marketers should take this trend into account and ensure the mobile-friendliness of their campaigns.
34. And the last (by now) interesting fact about email.
Every second, 912,909 emails are sent, which is 3,286,473,696 emails per hour, according to Internet Live Stats.
Today, email is a vital part of any kind of communication, be it private messaging or e-commerce campaigns. That’s why launching effective campaigns that will catch the recipient’s attention is as necessary as having a well-organized easy-to-use website. If you’re interested in creating emails that would be impossible to ignore, subscribe to our blog and follow us on social media. We promise to keep you up to date with all the current tendencies!