It recently occurred to me that I’ve been using email for 20 years! Back in the late 80s/early 90s, I used to dial up to connect to local area Bulletin Board Systems. I have fond memories of using the BBS systems in Wilmington. (I may write an entire post about that sometime.)
In the later part of my BBS heyday, around 1992 or 1993, I was a member of one called The Backdoor. I recall that at some point the sysop (admin) added the ability for users to send real email over the Internet. Up until that time, we could only send messages to each other within the BBS itself. This was the first time I had access to true email with an “@” sign.
Not so fast, though. It could take up to 12 hours to send and receive mail. The reason for that was that the Backdoor computer only called up the Internet and retrieved email for all users twice a day. Running a BBS cost money and it wasn’t cost effective to exchange mail over the Internet more often than that. People didn’t have always-on data connections in those days. The Backdoor computer had to dial up to retrieve emails itself and then pass them on to the users as they logged in.
I certainly don’t remember what my first email address was, that has been long forgotten, but I’m fairly sure that the domain name was @backdoor.net. Not many people had email addresses back then. I remember having to go out of my way to find people that I could write just to test the system. Email was extremely basic back in those days, too. It was text-only. Without fonts, colors, or file attachments.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since those early days. I went from using the BBS for basic email, to early editions of America Online, then to my first real Internet service provider (MindSpring), then later on to web-based mail at Hotmail, Yahoo mail and Gmail. By the way — do you remember MindSpring? Ah, those were the days.
I wish I had made a serious effort to save all of the emails I’ve received. I didn’t get serious about storing all of my mail until around 2003. That gives me a decade of archives, but I no longer have the messages from my early Yahoo or Hotmail accounts, for instance. At some point long ago, the accounts became overrun with spam and I went in and deleted them in haste, and created new ones. I wish I hadn’t done that. I’d love to be able to peek through the mail I’d received from way back then.
A lot has changed in technology in the past 20 years, but email survives. I’m happy that it is still alive and well. Will it exist in its current form 20 years from now? I hope it does, but there is room for improvement.