Chennai-born Shiva Ayyadurai claims credit for developing first e-mail system!

He has been honoured with many prestigious awards for his invention of email and ongoing contributions to email technology.

Last Updated: Jul 15, 2013, 09:13 AM IST

Chennai: By developing the first e-mail system, V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai is claiming to have invented the electronic equivalent of paper-based postal mail system. The 48-year-old inventor is a system scientist and a lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

He has been honoured with many prestigious awards for his invention of email and ongoing contributions to email technology.

Ayyadurai had used the features of the inter-office, inter-organizational paper mail system to convert it into an electronic version, which would facilitate the workers of a University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) to carry on with their mail delivery without much effort.

“That secretary had a typewriter, she would write memos, to from subject, CC, BCC. She actually used physical carbon copy. The carbon copy was actually used to create copies. She had an inbox, a physical inbox, where she would receive paper mail, she had an outbox where she would mail to be picked up. She also had a drafts bin. The drafts bin was with the doctor who would some time dictate to her a letter. She would then type the letter up in the typewriter and put it in the drafts. He would review it. Then she would put it in the outbox. She also had file folders, sometimes this mail had to be archived sometimes for three four five or ten years,” said Ayyadurai.

Systems for communications among widely dispersed computers were in existence at the time, but they were primitive and their usage was largely confined to computer scientists and specialists.

So when Ayyadurai’s mentor Michelson gave him the challenge to convert the inter-office, inter-organizational paper mail system into an electronic version, he readily accepted it.

“Like this there were 50 or 100 features. Dr. Michelson challenged me, he said, Shiva, would you like to convert the entire system, this entire system, the inter-office; inter-organization paper mail system to an electronic version. That is what I did in 1979, I looked at this whole system and I created the electronic version and I called that system, E-M-A-I-L, Email,” said Ayyadurai.

The inventor says he envisioned something simpler, something that everyone, from the secretary to the CEO of any organization, could use quickly and reliably send and receive messages in a digitised form. “So, in 1981, I applied for the software copyright, and in 1982. I received it.

I was awarded the first US copyright for Email, a computer program for electronic mail system,” Ayyadurai said recalling how he applied for the copyright of the software.

Today, nearly two billion people worldwide use email, rendering it an indispensable form of communication.