A Brief History of Email

Category: Comp

As a digital native, I have spent most of my life connected to the internet in one way or another. One of the consequences of this is the fact that I have been using email for several decades.

I got my first Internet-accessible address from an Excalibur BBS called Cursors. It long since offline, but the basic procedure was to connect via one Excalibur BBS, then open a WinSock connection to another BBS (with a second instance of the Excalibur client software). Then you could read your email. This wasn't very convenient, and I didn't end up using it very much.

The second email service I had was via FidoNet. FidoNet was an offline network of BBSes. The basic idea was you'd connect to your local BBS, and access forums ("Echoes") and email ("EchoMail"). There was a FidoNet-to-Internet gateway, so you could send and recieve email via a complicated email address which included the FidoNet routing information. While this did work, in practice it usually took 1-2 days to get your email -- still better than USPS most of the time. Since my "real" Internet access was quite limited at the time, I would occasionally use a web-to-email gateway to download web pages. It took about a week to do an InfoSeek search and actually read the resulting web pages.

Eventually my school got a real Internet connection, so the students were able to get on the Internet from time to time. I set up a HoTMaiL account (alexla), but quickly got myself locked out when I forgot the password. So, I set up a second account (alexdw), a name which I have used ever since.

After our community got a taste for real Internet access, Mike Davis set up an Internet Service Provider called Locl.net. I quickly signed up for the service, and kept my account name. That also prompted me to move my old GeoCities page Alex's Doctor Who Page over to create The Home of AlexDW. (Both of these links are now dead.)

This lasted through my first few years of college. Once I moved on-campus, however, I was using the campus network. That was the end of my Locl.net account, so I was using my Tri-State email account full-time. This wasn't really acceptable, so that lead me to sign up with Your-Site and register MGZI.NET.

In my Locl.net days, I used the Netscape Communicator (now Thunderbird) email program for a while. School email was handled through the VAX VMS system, so I got used to command-line email pretty quickly. This lead my to set up a fetchmail+exim system on my own computer, so that I could use mutt. Nowadays, I'm back to Thunderbird, so it's come full circle.