August 30, 2011 marks that 29th anniversary of the term "email." On this day in 1982, the U.S. Copyright Office awarded V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai a copyright for his "EMAIL" communication system.
Shiva, an MIT alumnus and professor, began work on a standard template system for drafting an sending electronic mail in 1978, when he was just 14 years old. The computer lab director at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) challenged the young Shiva to redesign the doctors' paper memo system as an electronic communication system.
"The two words, 'Electronic' and 'EMAIL' juxtaposed together for me originally brought images of vaporizing paper and somehow transporting it across electrical wires, like the transporter in Star Trek. That is how NEW those two terms next to each other were in 1978," Shiva writes on his website, where he has posted an infographic about his work.
Shiva modeled his simple, generic user interface after the memos he'd seen in use at the university. "A typical MAIL had the title of MEMORANDUM, with 'To:', 'From:', 'Date:', 'Subject:', 'Cc:', 'Bcc:', 'Attachment', elements. This was the meaning of MAIL," Shiva also writes on his site.
The system was called EMAIL when it was implemented at UMDNJ in 1980; Shiva copyrighted the term two years later.
Statements by Facebook's top staffers seem to indicate that email is on its way out. The social network's COO Sheryl Sandberg said in June 2010 that email is "probably going away." In November 2010, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook's revamped messaging service and announced that users would now be able to set up Facebook email address. However, he called email "slow" during his introduction of the new messaging system, which he said was "modeled more after chat" and less after email.
Shiva, however, doesn't think email is going anywhere. He wrote the following in an email to The Huffington Post:
"[F]rom my view EMAIL is here to stay, it may be integrated, connected to other communication systems, but it is here to stay, and it will grow even more as people learn how to use it more effectively. We have not scratched the surface
of using EMAIL, and that is yet to come."
In response to Zuckerberg's statements about email, Shiva wrote that Zuckerberg's messaging system builds off the foundation that email laid. "What's ironic is that [Mark Zuckerberg] is launching @facebook, with EMAIL (in an integrated fashion, EMAIL nonetheless), to go head on with GMAIL," Shiva wrote.
Visit Shiva's website to read more about the history behind his electronic memo system. Check out Shiva's infographic (below) to view a visual timeline of his achievement and the growth of email.