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Email — thirty-two and still going strong



It was summer of 1978. A fourteen year old high school student joined the computer laboratory of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) as research assistant under Dr. Leslie P Michaelson.

The very first task given to him by Michaelson was in reality a Gordian knot. But to the professor's utter surprise, the lad diligently pursued the problem with back bending research in his leisure hours for next three years to crack it. What he had ultimately achieved stirred the entire communication revolution.

What was the task?
Michaelson asked the teenager to find out an electronic solution to replace paper based mail system then prevalent among computer handling scientists of UMDNJ.  The boy wrote a fifty- thousand-line computer code which he named as email.  

No longer was paper needed to write a mail. All one needed was a networked computer attached with a keyboard. One would have to just type and send it to recipient's mail address.

This child of Indian immigrant parents was awarded the first copyright for email, the computer programme for electronic mail system on 30th august, 1982.  And that was the commencement of impending omnipresent communication revolution.

Welcome to the world of Dr. V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai, inventor of email and one of the most respected system scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs and educators on global scale.

Some 32 years have gone down into history since that grant of copyright. Instead of adorning the science labs in big box shapes, the computer is now very much part of our lives in the avatar of slick personal computer (pc), laptop and notebook.

Simultaneously invention of internet and its big brother broadband  have ushered into the world mobile phones as well, thereby effectively commencing 'anytime anywhere internet'. Riding on these tsunami of communication waves, email too has crossed the barrier of computers to emerge in the world of mobile computing.

It's now very common sight to see a person checking or writing mail in a moving vehicle or in bus stop, railway stations or airports.

So how has email fared during these thirty two years?
In the year 1982 itself there were 0.1 million emails exchanged.  With the advent of offline email reader (1985) and branded email like Microsoft outlook (1992), hotmail (1996) and yahoo (1997) 55 million emails were exchanged in 1997.

Introduction of email in Blackberry mobile phone handset in 1999 proved to be a game changer and the email exchange figure sky rocketed to 400 million in that year only.  Since that, invention of that fourteen year old boy has not looked back and has notched up impressive figure of 3.9 billion in 2013 alone.

According to Technology Market Research, a Palo Alto based market research group, email figure could touch 4.9 billion in 2017.

And that's not the end of story. With the advent of Fourth Generation (4G) communication technology, internet compatibility is no longer confined to computer or mobile but also to series of other things, known as internet of things and some of them could be used as screen on which email could be written.

 Email once the door of dignity to Ayyadurai . Now his invention is tirelessly opening the world of respect and opportunity globally.

The author is a senior journalist specialised in technology. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely his and not of Times of Oman.


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