On LinkedIn, I posted:
So what’s the oldest email you can open up right now?
Something not necessarily in your inbox, but rather in a folder somewhere in your email clients but not in an archive or backup somewhere?
My oldest is apparently December 16, 2002, a response to a query pitching a play to a theatre company in St. Louis.
Which is weird, because I am pretty sure I had the email account before the turn of the century; although an Older label appears, I can’t click it to see emails from before then.
Related: When did you send your first email on the Internet?
It was probably a query for The Courtship of Barbara Holt, and the theatre (in Florissant, not St. Louis proper) was ultimately rejected, of course.
But it got me to thinking of the email addresses I’ve had over the years.
My first “Internet” email address would have been an AOL account. I just tried to log into it, and it fails with an error on AOL’s part, so no digging up emails from the early 1990s. Although I guess I had a Prodigy account in 1990, so perhaps that would count. But I don’t remember sending a lot of emails to that account. And when I was a kid with a modem, the Color Graphics 64 Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes) offered messages between users of the board, but not really the Internet–although I think a plug-in came along later that helped with that. Boards hosted on IBM compatible computers, such as WWIV (World War IV), had the ability to read newsgroups and send email over the Internet, but I don’t know if I ever did. So my first email on the Internet could have come as early as the 1980s, but I can really only pinpoint sending emails in the mid-to-late 1990s, including the ones starting in 1997 I sent to the woman whom I would marry. Via the aforementioned AOL account.
Somewhere around 1998 or 1999, I got a Hotmail account, and it’s in that account that one finds the 2002 email. I am pretty sure I got a Hotmail account because it was more sophisticated than an AOL account at the time. But it has been useful over the decades as an email address to use when ordering things and whatnot where marketing emails are going to come.
When I moved into my first apartment, I switched to a real Internet Service Provider, in this case the one run by the local newspaper, and I had that email address for a couple of years, including the first years in the house at Casinoport. But when I formed my consulting company in 2004, I bought the domain name, set up a Web site, and set up email for the company, and it has been my primary email address since. The archives only go back to summer of 2007, though, as a Thunderbird update or computer change cut off the emails from before.
I dunno what got me to thinking about this last night. But it’s kind of funny. Emails have been a fixture for most of my adult life, and if you count the BBS messages, it goes back to most of my life indeed. And judging from comments on the LinkedIn, some other adults have emails going back decades. Our kids will likely not have that continuity; they have email addresses for school, but their peer communication goes through Discord, WhatsApp, and other ephemeral conduits.
So much informal, and formal, communication is getting lost. One wonders if this will be referred to as a Dark Ages sometime in the future.