Thursday, December 27, 2007

World's oldest e-mail address? Nah!

Happy Birthday 72407,3343!

(Note: Mailing address on card is obsolete.)
Today my CompuServe e-mail address turns 22 years old. Think of how many online services, Web portals, e-mail services and other Internet-borne businesses have come and gone in that time.

I still remember that magic moment in 1985 when I dialed in and signed on and waited -- and waited -- and waited -- for that first CompuServe welcome message to crawl across the monochrome screen of my cutting-edge Tandy 100 laptop.

And I do mean crawled -- at 300 bits per second. That's 300 bits per second -- not kilobits or megabits! Yes, in 1985 most of us could type faster than our computers could transmit data.

At that time CompuServe was by far the top name in online services, offering more useful content and more access to important databases than any other service.

The fact that you could also use it to send e-mail to was almost an afterthought since at that time you could only send messages to other CompuServe members. Other online services of the time had the same limitation. That explains the many e-mail address at the bottom of my old business card (see above).

Of course things changed over time as CompuServe initially opened special gateways to MCI Mail and other select online services and later opened the gates wide open so that members could contact any e-mail address.

CompuServe, born in 1969, is still alive today, although it's hard to tell from its rather lame home page ( America Online, which acquired CompuServe in 1998, barely markets the service and seems intent on letting the venerable old name peter out through membership attrition.

Who would have thought in 1985, when cell phones were the size of milk cartons, that we would be checking e-mail on shirt-pocket-size handsets today.

No, my CompuServe address isn't the the oldest e-mail address in the world by a long shot, but... Do you have an older one?

This curious mind would like to know.

Text and image Copyright 2007 Stadium Circle Features


Herb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


macwhiz said...


Accounts with three-digit suffixes are older than the four-digit suffix accounts...

Paul said...

My first CompuServe email address was "PL" and it was assigned in 1973 when I was hired as a computer operator by the CompuServe. Most people had never heard of email then, but it was a core communication tool inside our company, and a major project offering to folks like General Motors and NCR.

Piece of trivia: in DEC lingo, these numbers are called "Project,Programmer" numbers, or PPNs. They were represented in octal, with the project number in the left half of the 36-bit word, and the programmer number is the right half. The largest possible project or programmer number was 777777, making the largest possible User ID = 777777,777777

We assigned all the CIS PPNs to projects greater than 70000, just to distinguish them from the PPNs of our commercial customers.

The notion of PPN was buried so deeply in the system architecture, especially the security architecture, that alphanumeric IDs were a nightmare...