Home Business IT Technology Noam Chomsky weighs into 'who invented email?' controversy
Get all your tech news delivered to your mail box five days a week
iTWire UPDATE - it's FREE!

In April this year Ray Tomlinson was named one of the inaugural 'Pioneer' members of the Internet Society's new 'Hall of Fame' for "developing Arpanet's first application for network email," but credit for inventing email, in 1978 is being claimed by VA Shiva Ayyadurai who was just 14 at the time. And he is being backed up by no lesser luminary than renowned academic Noam Chomsky.

Tomlinson's employer, BBN, said on the occasion of his entry into the Hall of Fame "In 1971, Tomlinson developed Arpanet's first application for network email...allowing messages to be sent to users on other computers. He chose the @ sign to separate local from global emails in the mailing address. Person-to-person network email was born and user@host became the standard for email addresses."

Ayyadurai, however, maintains that he invented email and he has created a comprehensive web site  in support of his claim. On it he has published a statement from Chomsky in which Chomsky says: "Email was invented in 1978 by [Ayyadurai] a 14-year-old working in Newark, NJ. The facts are indisputable." And Chomsky dismisses as "deplorable" the "childish tantrums of industry insiders who now believe that by creating confusion on the case of 'email', they can distract attention from the facts."

The controversy erupted after the Smithsonian Institute in February this year announced the acquisition of Ayyadurai's material relating to the project. This lead to an article in the Washington Post headed "VA Shiva Ayyadurai: Inventor of e-mail honoured by Smithsonian." (That article has since been amended and only the amended version is available)

The article provoked a storm of controversy. There was a blog posting from the Washington Post's ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, quickly by a mea culpa from Paxton in which he confessed that his initial response had been "dismissive, snarky and wrongheaded, and had factual errors too."



Avoid War Room Scenarios and improve handling of critical application problems:

• Track all transactions, end-to-end, all the time and know what your users experience 24/7

• View code level details with context and repair problems quickly

• Fix problems in minutes before they wreak havoc

• Optimize your most important applications, Java, .NET, PHP, C/C++ and many more

Start your free trial today!



Where are your clients backing up to right now?

Is your DR strategy as advanced as the rest of your service portfolio?

What areas of your business could be improved if you outsourced your backups to a trusted source?

Read the industry whitepaper and discover where to turn to for managed backup


Stuart Corner


Tracking the telecoms industry since 1989, Stuart has been awarded Journalist Of The Year by the Australian Telecommunications Users Group (twice) and by the Service Providers Action Network. In 2010 he received the 'Kester' lifetime achievement award in the Consensus IT Writers Awards and was made a Lifetime Member of the Telecommunications Society of Australia. He was born in the UK, came to Australia in 1980 and has been here ever since.