The Birth of Internet Communications: Email

The Internet was a great idea. Suddenly, you could connect multiple computers in separate geographical locations, allowing you to sync up and create data that would be shared by several parties without the time spent in waiting for a shipment. This idea though was still at a young stage, as though computers had become able to communicate with one another, there was still a significant learning curve to understanding the cryptic protocols of the system. Further, there was no even semi-user friendly means of simply sending a message to a companion miles away even though the computers were connected – though this was essentially the end goal.

The realization that there was still a great an unmet need gave an idea to Ray Tomlinson. He pictured a protocol for ARPANet (the internet as it was then known): what is even today known as telnet protocol. This had simplified email to some extent. The protocol allowed users to log into other machines remotely, to which they had absolutely no physical connection and which could in fact reside many miles away from the client machine. From there, the protocol would allow the access of host specified files and the client would be able to use several different sets of possible data and even programs that the host maintains. But because the host can also become client, and the client can also act as a host, the protocol is essentially bidirectional.

This would develop over the course of time as Telnet does not encrypt data by default (for example) and has a number of other vulnerabilities which would belie its usefulness, particularly for the military. Many other issues would be improved till the present time where we would be able to use Graphics User Interface (GUI) enriched mailing clients that we have become so accustomed to such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo as well as the computer based programs like Outlook and Thunderbird.


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