Meet Indian-American inventor of email as it turns 32 years old

Written by Press Trust of India | Washington | Updated: Aug 31 2014, 07:31am hrs
Email turned 32 years old on Saturday, but how many of us know that this quick method of message transfer was invented by Indian-American VA Shiva Ayyadurai when he was just 14 years old

In 1978, Ayyadurai created a computer programme, which he called email, and which replicated all the functions of the inter-office mail system: inbox, outbox, folders, memo, attachments, address book, etc. These features are now familiar parts of every email system.

On August 30, 1982, the US government officially recognised Ayyadurai as the inventor of email by awarding him the first US Copyright for Email for his 1978 invention. At that time, copyright was the only way to protect software inventions.

Email wasnt created, with a massive research budget, in big institutions like the ARPANET, MIT or the military. Such institutions had thought it impossible to create such a system, believing it far too complex, The Huffington Post said.

Ayyadurai was born to a Tamil family in Mumbai. At the age of seven years, he left with his family to live in the US. At 14 years of age, he attended a special summer programme at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University (NYU) to study computer programming, and later went on to graduate from Livingston High School in Livingston, New Jersey. While attending high school, he also worked at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) as a research fellow.

Ayyadurais talent, passion and commitment immediately impressed Leslie Michelson, then director of the Laboratory Computer Network (LCN) at UMDNJ. He gave him a challenge: to convert the old system of paper-based mail communications used at UMDNJ to an electronic one.

This complex system was the inter-office mail system. This system was not unique to UMDNJ, but used in nearly every office including those of presidents and prime ministers.