The first version of a computer email system that resembles anything like what we have today showed up around 1965. Computers had been primitively networked a few years earlier, and you could technically send and receive content.
At MIT in 1965, Tom Van Vleck and Noel Morris wrote the
In 1967, "messaging" was on the list of the reasons for developing ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet. The other reasons included: load sharing, data sharing, program sharing, and remote logins.
In 1969, Tom Van Vleck would reimplement the
The U.S. Postal Service experimented with forms of electronic mail in the 1960s and 1970s. An effort called MAILGRAM between USPS and Western Union sent messages electronically to a post office where they were printed out and mailed as normal letters.
In 1971, the
READMAIL programs for TENEX allowed users to specify the traditional
cc: headers. It also introduced the
@ sign to refer to an ARPANET host.
The same year, a
MSG was the first mail application that included features like Reply and Forward. The Unix
MBOX format was developed. Attachments came in 1976.
- 1982 – Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)
- 1988 – IMAP
- 1991 – PGP for Email
- 1995 – First commercial webmail company
You can see the entire timeline until 2011 here.