My first email.

instructions for my first email



I have distinct memories of my first email, in early 1988 (twenty years ago today). I was working at the Philips Laboratory in Eindhoven, and had just made a phone call to Markus Büttiker at the IBM Laboratory in Yorktown Heights. Markus was organizing a workshop in Italy and I asked if I could present our unpublished results on conductance quantization. I wanted to follow up my phone call with a formal letter, which I did, but Markus asked me to send the text by email as well. I had heard of this technology, but had never used it before. (When we had an urgent letter we would fax it.) I jotted down his BITNET address, BUETTIK at YKTVMV (the @ sign would come later), and asked around how to proceed. I learned that my colleague Paul Kelly had used email as a postdoc at the IBM Labs, so he could help me.

I have kept the instructions which I received, as a curiosity. The email message would be routed through a machine at our lab (PRLE = Philips Research Labaratories Eindhoven), to a central Philips node (PHILMDS = Philips MDS computer), and then to the gateway in Amsterdam (MCVAX = Mathematical Centre VAX computer). International networking was based on the UUCP protocol, as can be seen by the ! separator in the address. Our computers at Philips used an IBM operating system called CMS, where "FN FT FM" specifies the file to be emailed with the TCPSEND command.

I feel privileged to have witnessed the internet revolution.

Carlo Beenakker, February 1, 2008.