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What Was The First Email Sent in 1971?

The sending of the first e-mail was a historic feat for mankind; the message, though, was just meh.

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The First Email

Just yesterday, I was reading an interesting article about the best way to close an e-mail. See, sending e-mails have become a staple of our daily lives that it has completely lost its novelty; it is now simply comparable to an ordinary, person-to-person conversation. Hence, the dilemma of how to properly close an e-mail.

Using conventional complimentary closes like “sincerely” and “truly” may appear too affected, stodgy and overly formal. “Cheers” on the other hand may seem too casual, while the good ole “best” may seem too safe. Not closing at all seems way too abrupt.

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According to business communication experts, one should take into consideration a lot of aspects when closing a mail, including the over-all message of the mail, and the relationship of the sender to the recipient.

Putting a complimentary close to an e-mail is like putting a ribbon on a gift, or a cherry on a cake. It is easy to imagine the struggle of the first e-mail sender to think of an appropriate close to his mail – and why not – as sending that message would mark a historic feat in the history of communication.


There was not any struggle at all, let alone an attempt to put a complimentary close on the very first e-mail sent.

In 1971, Computer Engineer Ray Tomlinson sent the first electronic mail with an anti-climactic message (if you can call it as such) – something like QWERTYUIOP. The first e-mail was nothing but a test message to Tomlinson himself, to verify of one computer can send a message to another computer via ARPANET – a network of computers that was the precursor to the Internet.

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Prior to sending the first e-mail, Tomlinson had been working with messaging programs called SNDMSG and READMAIL, which allowed users to leave messages for one another on the same computer. Then, he built the third program, CYPNET, which afforded the users the possibility to send and receive messages and files between computers.

Image Source: Giphy

Aside from sending the first e-mail, Tomlinson is also known for introducing the “@” sign as the locator in e-mail addresses. It was said that Tomlinson chose the “at sign” because of its original purpose (at least in English) of indicating a unit price. In addition, “at signs” were not used in names to there would be no confusion about where the separation between login names and host names would be.

So, the next time you send an e-mail and find yourself stumped about what to put as a complimentary close, I say don’t sweat the small stuff: An e-mail without a close, let alone a comprehensible message, changed the way the world communicated.

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Hina Sapra

Content Writer, South Asia. Hina is a former news correspondent at Times of India


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