As I type this, it’s not yet noon, but I’ve already sent 30 emails. So, it seems I have a lot to thank Ray Tomlinson for.

Forty years ago last week, Tomlinson sent the world’s first email. Today, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, 294 billion emails get sent daily. 

In honor of email’s 40th birthday, the Distributed Marketing Blog posted a few fun milestones over email’s lifetime:

• 1976: Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain becomes the first head of state to send an email.
• 1982: The word email enters the dictionary, and Scott Fahlman creates the first smiley “emoticon.”
• 1989: Radio man Elwood Edwards records AOL’s “You’ve got mail” message.
• 1997: Microsoft buys Hotmail for $400 million and launches Microsoft Outlook later that same year.
• 1998: The Oxford English Dictionary codifies the word “spam” as a permanent part of the language.
• 1999: The first email “urban legend” is widely circulated to millions — a tale of how Bill Gates will send money to Internet users as part of a plan to share his wealth.

It was interesting to see email’s evolution through the years, realize how tightly woven it now is into the human experience and the power it has to both communicate and alienate.

I think it’s a power that belongs uniquely to email. I can’t imagine we’ll be celebrating the 40th birthday of the text message decades from now.

What do you think? How has email most significantly changed your personal and/or professional life? Has the change been for the better, or worse? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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