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Old 21.06.2011, 23:10
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The birth of E-Mail

Yesterday the NY Times started a five part series by Errol Morris entitled Did My Brother Invent E-Mail With Tom Van Vleck?, second part was published today, so I suppose that we will get daily installments. It is in a sort of blog format, instalments in reverse chronological order. Fascinating history ...

I did not intend to give quotes (it is the cumulative detail that makes this fascinating) but this piece called for quotation:
TOM VAN VLECK: Well, I remember vaguely discussing it with people and worrying about what the U.S. Post Office would think of it and whether they would tell us not to do it, or tell us that they had to be involved in it.

ERROL MORRIS: Well, secretly, you were trying to put the post office out of business.

TOM VAN VLECK: We didn’t realize that at the time, but we were afraid that they would want us to destroy a first class stamp every time we sent a mail message.

ERROL MORRIS: Really! There would be Noel Morris and Tom Van Vleck stamps.

TOM VAN VLECK: We didn’t want to ask them because we were afraid they would say, “No, of course not.” Or, “We have a monopoly on that.” Which they did. In those days if you sent a box by UPS and you put a letter in the box, you were supposed to destroy a first class stamp.

ERROL MORRIS: Is that true?

TOM VAN VLECK: Oh, yes. The U.S. post office had a monopoly on sending mail. So, we didn’t ask until finally some years later, one of the professors at MIT ran into somebody from the Post Office advanced development organization, or whatever it was, at a conference and said, “Hey, we have this thing. Are you concerned with that, are you interested in it?” And he said, “Oh no, forget it, we’re not interested in that.” And we said, “Great, thanks. That’s what we were hoping to hear.” We didn’t ask again.
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