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'Inventor of Email' Gets Support of Noam Chomsky

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the today's-bizarro-news-continues dept.

The Internet 288

Ian Lamont writes "Shiva Ayyadurai, who famously claims to have invented email as a teenager in the 1970s, is back. A statement attributed to Noam Chomsky offers support for Ayyadurai's claim while attacking 'industry insiders' for stating otherwise. The statement reads: 'Given the term email was not used prior to 1978, and there was no intention to emulate "...a full-scale, inter-organizational mail system," as late as December 1977, there is no controversy here, except the one created by industry insiders, who have a vested interest to protect a false branding that BBN is the "inventor of email," which the facts obliterate.'"

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288 comments

Ask a better question (2, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | about 2 years ago | (#40298175)

What exactly was there to 'invent' here? Once you conect two computers to each other sending messages is one of the most obvious uses for the ability; probably occuring within seconds of the notion of transferring documents/files. So the name is the claimed invention? The self evident name will be "electronic mail" or some variation in any English speaking country, which all the early networking research was done in. So what is left, the next obvious step of a easier to say/write contraction to 'email'?

Bah. Just having a hack like Chomsky's name attached speaks volumes. Nothing to see here, move along. Nonstory.

Re:Ask a better question (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298263)

Hack like Chomsky? Really? He reinvented linguistics. His influences reach out from compilers to AI to psychology. Hack? Don't judge the man by (your opinion of) his political views.

Re:Ask a better question (0, Troll)

jmorris42 (1458) | about 2 years ago | (#40298421)

Except of course he isn't really known for things he (according to people in his specialty) is actually skilled at. The problem is that he banks on that aclaim from that highly specialized skill to claim a general competence he clearly does not possess. His political writings are of the most dangerous twaddle that only the most vulnerable college student buys into. The sort of thing that leads to revolutions followed closely by mass graves when a critical mass tire of slapping the lies down. So if he is presenting a paper at a conference in his specialty I suppose others in it should probably attend, otherwise it is a good idea to ridicule him.

So by hack you mean... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298513)

You mean someone you don't agree with and you consider "dangerous." And you ridicule him as a "hack" because you don't like his politics even though he is an undeniably great linguist.

Thanks for clarifying.

Re:Ask a better question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298871)

Kinda like Paul Krugman, then.

Re:Ask a better question (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40299375)

Wait are you thinking of Dr. Ron Paul?

Re:Ask a better question (-1, Troll)

ToadProphet (1148333) | about 2 years ago | (#40299409)

His political writings are of the most dangerous twaddle

Dangerous twaddle? Do ideas frighten you?

Re:Ask a better question (1)

OakDragon (885217) | about 2 years ago | (#40298437)

Hack like Chomsky? Really? He reinvented linguistics. His influences reach out from compilers to AI to psychology. Hack? Don't judge the man by (your opinion of) his political views.

Where did the OP mention anything about Chomsky's political views?

Re:Ask a better question (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about 2 years ago | (#40298479)

Since no one in his right mind can call Chomsky a "hack" based on his achievements for linguistics, there's not much room left for speculations about the OP's motives for choosing this term, is there?

Re:Ask a better question (0)

ricosalomar (630386) | about 2 years ago | (#40298633)

OP mentions it in his reply, his political agenda is clear, as is Chomsky's. Anyone who works on a computer owes much of his profession to the outstanding work of Prof. Chomsky.

Re:Ask a better question (3, Insightful)

xevioso (598654) | about 2 years ago | (#40299239)

A person can be grand at some tasks, like re-inventing linguistics, and a hack in other areas, like pontificating on politics.

Re:Ask a better question (1, Informative)

jedidiah (1196) | about 2 years ago | (#40298613)

No. He didn't invent linguistics. He perhaps invented a naive approach to linguistics that only really makes sense when applied to machines.

Re:Ask a better question (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | about 2 years ago | (#40298737)

Since the OP clearly stated that Chomsky "reinvented" linguistics, you might want to keep in mind the extent of your own reading ability when you decide to call a certain linguistic viewpoint "naive" the next time.

Re:Ask a better question (4, Insightful)

xevioso (598654) | about 2 years ago | (#40299221)

Maybe he means the hack Noam "I don't believe Osamam Bin Laden was involved in 9/11" Chomsky?

Or maybe he means the hack who said "Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”.

Probably that hack.

http://www.guernicamag.com/blog/noam_chomsky_my_reaction_to_os/ [guernicamag.com]

Re:Ask a better question (3, Interesting)

ToadProphet (1148333) | about 2 years ago | (#40299491)

"I don't believe Osamam Bin Laden was involved in 9/11"

Since you put that in quotes you are stating that's actually Chomsky's words. Source?

And PS, they didn't 'quickly learn that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda'. Otherwise, they could have provided conclusive evidence to the Taliban that Osama had in fact masterminded these attacks.

I don't follow conspiracy theory, but the fact is the evidence at the time was circumstantial at best.

Re:Ask a better question (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40298265)

Chomsky ought to know better, he was certainly an academic in the early 1970s. At any rate, the mail command dates back to 1970-71 and there is a very early RFC detailing an email system. Certainly by 1974-75 the earliest format of what we now call the mbox format was in existence, as was the transport system. This guy created an email system, but his system has nothing to do with the Unix mail system that predates it by several years, and is the progenitor of the UUCP/SMTP systems in place by the mid to late 1970s that were used to broadcast mbox-formatted emails to various organizations.

In short, this guy's email system was neither the first, nor did it have any influence on the Internet's email system. The claim is pure rubbish. For once I wish I was a subscriber because I actually did a detailed investigation of the various RFCs surrounding Unix mail and demonstrated that the guy is full of crap.

Re:Ask a better question (5, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40298461)

I think the guy is trying to use the evidence that he wrote yet-another-stand-alone electronic mail system (nothing new at the time) and named one subroutine email, therefore he invented the term email. Then there's massive water muddying trying to extend being the first to use that word into inventing the current worldwide internet email system and extending into inventing the very concept of email and extending into inventing email programs as a concept. A pretty big stretch.

I'm not sure that naming my stereo amplifier that I built with radio shack parts in 1985 the "iPod", because the stringy wiring reminds me of a bean, necessarily means I invented your ipod touch, or I invented the concept of a mp3 player, I'm not even sure if using the name first is all that relevant other than as a trivia question. Going into full blown PR mode with the PR message being "I invented the ipod in 1985" is more than a bit irresponsible. Just for the record I did build a amp out of radio shack parts more or less of my own design, and it worked at least for awhile, but I never gave it a cool trendy name. Should have named it "facebook".

Re:Ask a better question (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298571)

Did you even bother to read the article or the facts presented?

Shiva is not claiming to have invented the concept of electronic mail. He is claiming to have invented the first "full-scale, inter-organizational electronic mail system". What don't you understand about that? Here, let me make it clear:

MAIL SYSTEM

His mail system was unfortunately named "EMAIL", which has led to hundreds of neckbeard trolls being confused and attacking him.

Get off your high horse and read the actual claims. Ignore the name "EMAIL" and instead call it "EMAILSYSTEM", maybe that will help you calm down and act in a reasonable manner.

Re:Ask a better question (5, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40298609)

If he's still claiming that, then he's still a liar. What could be more inter-organizational than the ARPANet mail system that by 1975 was transmitting mail between US government agencies and academia throughout the US, Canada and Western Europe? The RFCs are there to prove it. ARPANet was distributing email to various organizations and agencies four or five years before this idiot's email program was written.

The guy is full of shit. He's a liar.

Re:Ask a better question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298995)

Oh really? So circa 1979 on ARPANet you had a single program that contained all these features:

"defined user interface, database driven, inbox, outbox, drafts, address book, carbon copies, registered mail, and the ability to forward."

"As late as December 1977, Mr. David Crocker, one of Shiva's detractors, part of the ARPAnet coterie, clearly stated in a report he authored, "...no attempt is being made to emulate a full-scale, inter-organizational mail system.""

Shiva is not claiming to have invented any individual feature. He is claiming to the first to integrate all the traditional components of a "full-scale, inter-organizational mail system" into a single electronic version.

It's not that hard to understand, but you keep wanting to put up and attack a straw man.

Show me another program from ~1979 with all the features available in his "EMAIL" program and I will believe you, but I have yet to find one.

Re:Ask a better question (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40299167)

The mail command, dating back to Multics (and god knows, probably older than that) was a functional mail system, so yes. As with all things Unix, it may not have been that pretty, but one could write an email and the mailer queue would sort out whether it was local delivery or was to be sent out via ARPANet (or possibly some other transmission method like UUCP, which also predates this guy's "all encompassing" mail program). He did not invent email, he did not invent the familiar structure of email (that was established in RFC by 1975), he did not invent a transmission system. He made his own email program that had no discernible adoption, was not the base of any other email technology. It was a dead end whose only notable feature was that it may be the first use of "EMAIL" (as opposed to electronic mail or e-mail, both of which can be found in reference to various other email systems in existence as far back as the 1960s).

Re:Ask a better question (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about 2 years ago | (#40298687)

> He is claiming to have invented the first "full-scale, inter-organizational electronic mail system".

Nope. The OP covered that claim too.

Once you've got "intra-organizational" mail of any sort it's a pretty trivial step to generalize that to "inter-organizational" mail. Given the size of some organizations, that might already have occurred even a mail system that is only within a single organization.

The whole "intra" versus "inter" distinction is remarkably artificial.

Re:Ask a better question (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40298795)

ARPANet was connecting all kinds of organizations before 1978. It was inter-organizational at least four or five years before this guy wrote his "email" program.

Re:Ask a better question (2)

trb (8509) | about 2 years ago | (#40298907)

RFC 524 proposed a networked mail protocol in 1973. It notes that there was already a MAIL command for sending networked mail (on the ARPANET).

http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc524 [ietf.org]

I agree that the guy's claim is dopey, and I'm not paying careful attention to Chomsky's claim, but I suspect that here he is playing some semantic game that he finds relevant in theory, but serves no useful purpose in fact.

Re:Ask a better question (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40299301)

It would appear so. I'm sure if someone were to dig, they'd find emails Chomsky sent that predate this guy's "EMAIL" program

Re:Ask a better question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298317)

This doesn't even seem to be about the invention of the process of emailing, it's the term "email" itself (or specifically EMAIL as a routine name in a program for sending interoffice messages, which may or may not have been called emails by the author at that point in time)

What's missing is the protocol specification that would have let anyone write an EMAIL-compatible client to communicate with each other.

Re:Ask a better question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298327)

No. The claim is for a higher level protocol that emulates the routing and addressing mechanisms of paper-based mail, in particular the headers "To", "from", "cc", and "subject".

Re:Ask a better question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298333)

Chomsky. Reading the name raised a red flag. When I was at the New School Graduate Faculty, some ppl seemed to praise him like he was the founder of a religion. Reading his works was about the most enlightening thing I could do. Came as a liberal, left as a Republican. Now that I've settled, I'm mostly libertarian, though :)

Re:Ask a better question (1)

SwedishPenguin (1035756) | about 2 years ago | (#40298913)

If you read his works and though he was a Liberal then you clearly didn't actually understand his works and you wouldn't use the word "Libertarian" to describe Anarcho-capitalism. He describes himself as a Libertarian Socialist or Anarcho-syndicalist. Liberalism is about as far from that as you can come.

Re:Ask a better question (0)

Sebastopol (189276) | about 2 years ago | (#40298451)

"Hack"? Really? And what have you dedicated your life to in order to be able to affix such a label with casual superioirty? Chomsky is gets a bad wrap because he is associated with non-republican/conservative opinions. But the man's non-political work is on part with Russel and Whitehead. Oh, you don't know who they are? They must be hacks too.

Re:Ask a better question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298781)

I know who Russel and Whitehead were, I know who Chomsky is, and I am deeply acquainted with all their works, as befits an academic computer scientist.
As much as the discussion here has nothing to do with Chomsky's political views, it has nothing to do with Chomsky's academic work, either.
Specifically, the history and technical development of e-mail is not in Chomsky's domain of expertise as a linguist or a scientist; one does not award patents or copyrights by flipping through the OED.

Chomsky is, in this instance as he has been in many others, an academic bully swinging the credentials earned for past academic excellence like a hammer at anyone who dissents about anything.

Re:Ask a better question (1)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#40298611)

Obvious today, not so much at the time. Though I can not comment on this particular person's place in history, I can say that such things were not exactly obvious even once basic networking was in place, esp since the idea of 'sharing documents' was not there right out of the gate either.

Re:Ask a better question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298851)

Who needs computers? I'd say Samuel Morse invented email. If a telegram isn't email, what is it?

Wow (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298247)

This is crazy. Normally individuals never get credit in corrupt capitalism. Is this a sign that we might start having meaningful anti-trust lawsuits, once again, instead of the judges/juries which are normally bought-and-paid-for? Having less corruption is probably only beneficial after our perpetual wartime ends, since only then might we be able to have economic progress which isn't merely inflation. I do have hope that Noam Chomsky's thoughts and words live, despite the resistance currently present to anything he represents.

If it was "invented" today. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298267)

The government would sue him for the word "mail"
Apple would sue him for adding a letter to the start of an already existing word.

Noam Chomsky offers support?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298273)

Noam Chomsky is a radical kook who ignores reality. He has no tech knowledge.

And this is Chomsky in a nutshell (4, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 2 years ago | (#40298309)

You see this pretty often when someone is very smart and makes revolutionary discoveries in their own field. They essentially convince themselves that they are an expert on everything and have opinions worth having about everything. In the case of the Chomsky that's gotten also wound up in his politics and apparent desire for counter-narratives to standard histories especially when the standard versions are primarily about white Westerners. This isn't that dissimilar to how Linus Pauling developed weird ideas about vitamin C, or how Kary Mullis has decided that global warming is a hoax, that ozone depletion is a hoax, that HIV doesn't cause AIDS, that the Fed Reserve is part of a big conspiracy, and a few other strange ideas besides. None of this should be taken to diminish Chomsky's work in linguistics which was altogether very impressive.

Re:And this is Chomsky in a nutshell (5, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40298429)

My problem with this specific claim is that Chomsky was around and most certainly must have been using Unix-based mail systems before this twerp developed his little system (that had no influence on the history of email itself). I can't understand where Chomsky is coming from on this. The guy didn't invent email, not even by the definition that Chomsky himself provides. He developed an independent system that seems not at all rooted in the considerable work done over the seven or eight previous years nor did it in any way influence the later development of later email systems. There were no lack of alternative email systems, and Exchange-Outlook are Lotus Notes are based on such systems out of the late 1970s and the 1980s, but the king of them all, SMTP transmitting mbox-structured email, can be directly linked back to the mail command to be found in the first version of Unix. There is a clear genealogy, and that even goes back into the 1960s with Multics. The RFCs are all there, hard proof that this guy did not invent some routed multi-organizational email system, that in fact, academia and the US government had been using such a system, which is the direct ancestor of Internet mail we use today. Hell, by the mid-1970s we had RFCs relating to the mbox format that made an mbox format that pretty much every mail program out there today could open.

Re:And this is Chomsky in a nutshell (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | about 2 years ago | (#40299033)

There is a clear genealogy, and that even goes back into the 1960s with Multics.

Yeah - a while ago, I lost a day reading through the stuff on www.multicians.org. I remember this [multicians.org] story, though, relevant to this Slashdot article.

Re:And this is Chomsky in a nutshell (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#40298549)

You see this pretty often when someone is very smart and makes revolutionary discoveries in their own field. They essentially convince themselves that they are an expert on everything and have opinions worth having about everything.

I think this has the cause and effect backwards. These people made revolutionary discoveries because they were self-confident, open to questioning basic assumptions, and willing to endure ridicule for proposing unconventional theories. People like this are wrong 99% of the time, but can make some really big breakthroughs the other 1% of the time.

Re:And this is Chomsky in a nutshell (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298575)

Chomsky is a professor at M.I.T., a place known to be full of clueless technophobes... right.

Corporations are trying to kill email through false-flag patents... Citibank, JP Morgan, Monsanto, Dow, News Corp, etc. want *all* our communication so that it can be monitored to ensure that corporate 'messaging' gets priority... you can already see this in the huge push of mega-corps towards Facebook. Apple just put Facebook into iOS so that all activity on your phone and tablet can be monitored and any dissent stifled. Hell, just look at slashdot, and the pro-corporate mouthpieces that spew their PR shit here (bonch, hairyfeet, jo_ham, etc).

This is war people... the corporate kleptofasicsts (Dimon, Blankfien, Cook, etc) want nothing more than their hands in your pockets and their boots in your face. Time to fight back

Email is ours.

Re:And this is Chomsky in a nutshell (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#40298641)

clever troll or genuine crackpot?

you decide

either way, laugh

Re:And this is Chomsky in a nutshell (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298709)

Apologist or misguided moron?

I decide: both

the pro-corporate mouthpieces that spew their PR shit here (bonch, hairyfeet, jo_ham, circletimessquare, etc).

Now you're on the list, shill.

Nice name btw. If you weren't a PR account and actually had any connection to NYC, you'd know that people here hate corporate shitheads... there's a reason OWS started here, and its not because we like fascists like you. Fuck off.

Fed Reserve is part of a big conspiracy ? ? ? (-1, Offtopic)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 2 years ago | (#40298821)

You must know something many millions of us are ignorant of, dood????

Perhaps this FAQ (as in frequently asked questions, or ones that should be asked) may help, or perhaps not....

(It pertains to "network neutrality" ...)

Global FAQ

What was the number one ranked communications corporation in 1950?

What is the number one ranked communications corporation in 2012?

Who actually owns AT&T?

Who invites Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) to those international banker forums known as "Bilderberg forums" (as in divide and conquer)?

Who lobbied fervently for the passage of NAFTA?

Who lobbied for China's entrance into the WTO?

Who established banking operations in Beijing and Moscow in 1973, immediately after Nixon's trip there?

What was the name of the senator from West Virginia who was the lead in congress in the passage of the legislation granting retroactive immunity to AT&T and the telecoms?

Who wants to end any semblance of network neutrality so they can control the Internet?

What was the name of that old German pop song with the lyric,

"Rock...e...feller....Rock..e.... .Rock ...e ..feller"?

In Other News... (1)

0xG (712423) | about 2 years ago | (#40299119)

Rock star Bono has lent his support to the patent claim.
Because, you know, he's a star!

Re:And this is Chomsky in a nutshell (1)

radtea (464814) | about 2 years ago | (#40299487)

None of this should be taken to diminish Chomsky's work in linguistics which was altogether very impressive.

I think you misspelled "mostly wrong". Interesting, sure. But mostly wrong: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/10/daniel-everett-amazon [guardian.co.uk]

I realize there is still ongoing debate about this because Chomsky has always fiercely defended his theory-of-the-moment, but whole notion of a "language instinct" is pretty tenuous on purely evolutionary grounds. All features of organisms are genetic tendencies that elaborate themselves in a particular developmental context. The insistence that there is a single, genetically determined "deep grammar" would make language completely unlike every other aspect of all organisms everywhere.

Re:And this is Chomsky in a nutshell (-1, Offtopic)

demachina (71715) | about 2 years ago | (#40299489)

Chomsky's politics are quite sophisticated and thoroughly plausible, they certainly aren't "strange". He IS bucking the narrative that America's elites spoon feed ordinary Americans. As a result, he gets painted as a crackpot because those elites really dont want anyone to listen to what he is actually saying. You should actually listen to what he says if for no other reason to broaden your intellectual horizons even if you still disagree with him.

If you get outside of the propaganda bubble in the U.S. he has views that aren't even particularly out of the main stream. Ron Paul receives exactly the same treatment from American elites. Paul was dismissed as a crackpot up until the 2008 financial crisis and the massive shenanigans the Fed and the Treasury department pulled to save the bankers, now a lot of people realize most of the issues he's raised with the Fed for decades were, in fact . . . right on the money.

The Federal Reserve IS a conspiracy, the only source of controversy is who exactly is behind it. The one group that is obviously involved is Wall Street bankers since they hold most of the power in the Fed and they abuse it handsomely to enrich themselves. Do you see a problem with:

A. The Fed being largely run by bankers and having the power to print money and distribute it to BANKERS, In the process they get to debase America's currency at their whim and when they do they steal money out of the pockets of responsible savers to the benefit of irresponsible debtors including and especially the Federal government.

B. The Federal Reserve is the primary regulator of banks and it is run by BANKERS. This is generally referred to as the fox guarding the chicken coop. Its a key reason why we are having financial crises originating in the banking system because the regulatory system is completely captured.

C. The Fed gets to set interest rates for banks to zero, and give them huge loans for free to gamble on stocks, commodities, etc. One reason commodity prices are seeing huge spikes recently, banks have a huge liquidity spigot and no place to blow it. The last thing they want to do with it since 2008 is actually loan it to businesses or home buyers and create actual jobs.

D. The Fed gets to manipulate the Consumer Price Index so it reports inflation dramatically below real inflation, real inflation has been running 10-20% in recent years in food and energy, the things people buy every day. Couple high real inflation with near zero percent interests on bank deposits and you have something called "financial repression". It is a system where the Fed or any central bank completely screws people, especially old people, who are responsible, save money and don't want to play in the rigged casino that are our stock markets now. Its a system designed to transfer their money to banks, gamblers on the stock marker and to debtors.

E. For the last few years the Fed has been printing money and buying trillions in U.S. government debt with it. Once you start doing that you have turned in to a banana republic and its just a matter of time before your currency collapses and you have hyperinflation.

The only thing you can say for letting the bankers (the Fed) guard the chicken coop (our money) is that letting government and politicians guard it would probably be even worse.

Mumps? (4, Interesting)

dickens (31040) | about 2 years ago | (#40298319)

When I started at DEC in 1980 we had a PDP-11 running DEC Standard Mumps that had a program that did email. I believe it was actually called "email" too.
It was not new at the time.

Re:Mumps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298839)

When I started at DEC in 1980 we had a PDP-11 running DEC Standard Mumps

Did you work on MUMPS/DSM at all?

Re:Mumps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40299299)

Mumps became "M" and is still popular with many geeks. on the IBM VM/CMS side there was Professional Office (PROFS) as well. Many protocols, many mail systems many developers, same basic idea.

Re:Mumps? (4, Interesting)

isdnip (49656) | about 2 years ago | (#40299341)

I was there too. The system in question was called EMS, or Corporate Electronic Mail System. It only supported a couple of thousand users because it wasn't networked. It ran on a standalone computer with about 30 modems on it, so you dialed in to read or send mail. All messages stayed on that machine, in one big MUMPS global file. And the program went down daily to maintain the global. Plug-ugly. Many more DEChies used the DECnet email system on the Engineering Network. That one had ARPAnet gateways, and was a real networked mail system.

Shiva's work was more like CEMS, a closed non-network toy system. By the standards of its day, it was pretty primitive. By 1977, BBN's HERMES did more than Shivas ever did, over the ARPAnet. And was user friendly, not just a geek tool.

wikipedia covers the history nicely (5, Informative)

Sebastopol (189276) | about 2 years ago | (#40298341)

Most of my immediate rants are captured already:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiva_Ayyadurai#Email_claims [wikipedia.org]

Re:wikipedia covers the history nicely (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 2 years ago | (#40298847)

Seems like these guys are using the "iPod argument".

Sure other people invented all of the pieces but they were the first ones to tie it together with a bow and make it easy to use. It sounds like they MAY have created the first walled garden mail system along the lines of Lotus Notes or Outlook/Exchange.

Want a "word processor" for your email program? Just point your email client to a suitable editor.

"Tight integration" isn't exactly required.

Re:wikipedia covers the history nicely (1)

s.petry (762400) | about 2 years ago | (#40298903)

I very much like the point that writing a function or program called "AIRPLANE" does not make you Wilbur Wright! I spit some coffee out laughing at that one...

Chomsky's "facts" are as wrong as Ayyadurai's (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298381)

It's ridiculous for Chomsky to say only "industry insiders" care about this, and that the reason is they're looking to protect BBN. That is a complete falsehood! The loudest voices speaking against Ayyadurai are from the Society for the History of Technology's Special Interest Group for Computers, Internet, and Society. "SIGCIS" as it's known is the world's leading body of historians in the computer field. (It is not an "Internet cabal" as Boston Magazine recently claimed.) I'm a member; as serious historians the only thing SIGCIS is looking to "protect" is historical context.

Re:Chomsky's "facts" are as wrong as Ayyadurai's (0)

idontgno (624372) | about 2 years ago | (#40298757)

That's the second stage of most pseudo-intellectual crankjobs: the Conspiracy working to suppress the Truth.

Think of this as Time Cube or Electric Universe, as applied to computer science history.

If Chomsky ever had any credibility, he just flushed it down the crapper for the sake of his anti-corporate anarchist cred. Good play, Professor.

Relevance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298407)

Who the F is Norm Chomsky, and why should I care what he says?

Re:Relevance (-1, Flamebait)

Cito (1725214) | about 2 years ago | (#40298683)

Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, to name just 3 are some of the top geniuses of our time. You should definitely know who the fuck they are, and if not you should research quick, cause you have definitely been left behind in knowledge.

Re:Relevance (3, Interesting)

Loosifur (954968) | about 2 years ago | (#40299275)

Noam Chomsky as a linguist? Incomparable. Like Newton, Einstein, and Hawking to physics, all rolled into one. Even beyond linguistics, the stuff this guy has done has rippled through everything from psychology to computer science. He's a legend.

Noam Chomsky as a political theorist? Bit of a whack-a-doo. Sort of lives out on the socialist/anarchist fringe. Likes to be outrageous, a little bit of a bomb-thrower. Like other people who spend a lot of time in the theoretical world, he tends to oversimplify foreign policy, international political economy, and economics in order to promote his own views "logically," while glossing over or missing entirely facts that don't quite fit his framework. He's kind of found his unifying theory for the world, and it's sort of a labor-oriented anarcho-communist struggle against authority, tradition, and convention. I struggle with Chomsky because there are a lot of things that he says with which I agree, and there are some things he says with which I disagree but can understand and respect his views, but then there are things that he says that are just tinfoil hat, howl-at-the-moon loopy.

All of this is my opinion, of course. I'm sure a lot of people find Chomsky's political beliefs totally reasonable. But when he said that Obama ordering the hit on bin Laden was equivalent to al Qaeda attacking George W. Bush's "compound" (his words, and I believe it's called a "ranch"), killing him, and dumping his body in the sea, he just sounded like a crazy old man to me, desperate to be seen as a "dangerous, radical outsider." He actually compared Bush to the Nazis, and claimed that Bush was responsible for all of the sectarian conflict in the Middle East. Funny that the equivalence wasn't between Obama (who signed off on the hit) and bin Laden, but not terribly shocking considering the source. That's pretty much textbook Chomsky. He tends to view anything that a Western, 1st world power does as sinister, fascist, and immoral, while unconditionally embracing any non-Western, developing nations regardless of the deeds (or misdeeds) of their governments. It's a shame that he doesn't apply the same intellectual rigor to his political views, but, whatever. Any time something can be crammed into the radical revolutionary narrative, he's on board, facts or morality be damned.

As a matter fact, I'd be curious to hear what his thoughts on Syria are.

Re:Relevance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40299499)

Noam Chomsky: inventing eating while doing yoga
Richard Dawkins: was on Family Feud and Hogan's Heroes
Nei DeGrasse Tyson: invented the round vacuum

Re:Relevance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298707)

Go back to 4chan, the grown-ups are talking.

Re:Relevance (1)

GofG (1288820) | about 2 years ago | (#40298867)

Noam Chomsky is an extremely accomplished cognitive scientist and linguist. His theories about the universal grammar of communication between intelligences have won him many awards and are extremely well-regarded in the field. He is probably a genius.

Unfortunately, he thinks that his special genius in the field of linguistics is actually just a "generalized special genius" and has written over 100 books on every controversial topic ever, espousing very anarcho-communistic views.

If you're doing work in linguistics or designing the syntax of a language or something, you would be right to revere him, so long as you ignored the rest of his stuff.

If you are still confused as to why he is such a big deal, he has been called by many of his supporters, "the 21st century's Carl Sagan", in that he pushes for science education for children and has given 'public science awareness' speeches similar in quality to the Pale Blue Dot lecture. On this surface level, he is a very good asset to the scientific community, but if you go any deeper he's a loony.

Re:Relevance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40299035)

If you don't know who Noam Chomsky is then you have no business being on slashdot.

Maybe he invented the name, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298433)

I can remember back to when I was in college in the early '70s using the mail system on the campus' TOPS-10 system. It wasn't called email, but people today would recognize as such, down to the resemblance to pine's interface.

Re:Maybe he invented the name, but... (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40298515)

The term "electronic mail" was used to describe the mail system developed along with Unix in 1970-71 (and that itself was originally designed as a compatible rewrite of the Multics mail system). It's possible that the term "email", as opposed to "electronic mail" or "e-mail" may have been first used by this guy, but his mail system had nothing to do with the routed mail system that had already been in use for seven years or so by various universities and various government departments in the US and abroad, and those systems, based around the mbox format that was pretty much fully detailed by 1975. People were exchanging emails over ARPANet years before this guy wrote his email program.

Even Chomsky is just talking about the name (1)

isdnip (49656) | about 2 years ago | (#40299449)

In one of his screeds, Shiva sort of brags that because the crappy computer that Rutgers Med, er, UMDNJ was using only supported 5-character program names, he came up with the name "EMAIL" in order to fit. Electronic mal was already commonplace, though not a consumer product yet, and not something the Livingston schools routinely used.

But claiming credit for being first to use an abbreviated name is not the same as inventing it. Recall that "Saturday Night Live" was originally the Howard Cosell variety show that ran at 10:00 on ABC. It lasted a few weeks. NBC Saturday Night made fun of it, but years after Cosell's show was gone and forgotten, it formally adopted its name, which people had been calling it all along.

It's all about the protocol (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 2 years ago | (#40298491)

All TFA says is V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai wrote a program called "EMAIL" and registered a copyright for it. There is not even a claim that it was actually tried out over a network, or a discussion of how the protocol worked or how it would scale.

Certainly this does make clear that "email" was not a totally original idea when BBN "invented" it, but neither was the light bulb original when Edison invented it. There is a certain value to making something actually work. (And yes, I know Edison was a douchebag [theoatmeal.com]. He still invented the light bulb, dammit!)

If it's any consolation, BBN made as much money off licensing their e-mail technology as Ayyadurai did: zero. This was back in the days when researchers shared their work. Contrast with how today's technology companies behave with respect to intellectual property and you'll see why I think Chomsky's denunciation of BBN is a bit overblown.

Re:It's all about the protocol (4, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40298565)

Ayyadurai was shopping himself around as the inventory of email. When he got nailed by several people who demonstrated by simply going through the relevant RFCs dating back to around 1970-71 that this guy had absolutely nothing to do with the development of the electronic mail system that even by 1978 was the prevalent system for much of Western academia, suddenly it became this "I copyrighted a bit of software". He was cut so grossly overinflating his importance that I think you have to call him a liar.

As to Chomsky, as I've said, he most certainly must have been using Unix-based mail back in those days, so I can't figure out how he can justify coming to this guy's defense.

Re:It's all about the protocol (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 2 years ago | (#40298919)

As to Chomsky, as I've said, he most certainly must have been using Unix-based mail back in those days, so I can't figure out how he can justify coming to this guy's defense.

Hey, I admire Chomsky for his principles, but even I admit he has an ego the size of a planet and will use the thinnest pretext to get his name in the headlines again.

Re:It's all about the protocol (1)

jmorris42 (1458) | about 2 years ago | (#40299241)

> I admire Chomsky for his principles, but even I admit he has an ego the size of a
> planet and will use the thinnest pretext to get his name in the headlines again.

This word you use, I do not think it means what you think it means. If your definition of 'principles' includes the notion that bearing false witness is acceptable then I must question your moral compass as well as Chomsky's.

Perhaps you should log off and spend a quiet month or two in study and reflection on basic principles or morality and decide what you really believe. I suspect you believe many things that you have been told by others are true and haven't bothered to think any of it out for yourself.

Re:It's all about the protocol (1)

idontgno (624372) | about 2 years ago | (#40299519)

If your definition of 'principles' includes the notion that bearing false witness is acceptable then I must question your moral compass as well as Chomsky's.

Actually, the relevant question isn't whether GPP's principles include moral support for truthfulness... the relevant question is whether Chomsky's principles do.

I wonder if "telling a lie to tell a more important truth" isn't the problem. Chomsky's contrafactual take on the argument tells me that he's advocating something more important to him than mere objective history. (Or, obliquely, that there is no such thing as "objective history", and he just wants his lie to win out in the marketplace of lies.)

Re:It's all about the protocol (1)

berashith (222128) | about 2 years ago | (#40298655)

I thought that the invention that BBN provided was the @ in the address. I worked there, and the lore came up a lot. I walked past the picture of the guy every day in the lobby ( which btw was the greated corp PR picture ever, he was lieing on his side, propped on an elbow ) . I even spoke with him at a christmas event ( but not about email) . I do know that even while this was done, it was seen as an obvious step. A symbol was needed that wasnt used often, so it wouldnt conflict with any names or such that already existed. Sending a message to a user at a different computer... OH SHIT ... " AT " a different computer. As many have noted here, the passing around was alreayd taking place, but the shining usefulness was the @ , as that is what lets everyone know that a string means something, in the same way that a phone number or an SSN ( to USA-ians) is instantly recognizable. I dont see the need for the drama over the invention of something that was already happening.

Re:It's all about the protocol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298663)

(Please forget everything you learned from the Oatmeal about Tesla and Edison [forbes.com]. Other than that, I'm modding you up because I completely agree with you.)

Re:It's all about the protocol (2)

Minwee (522556) | about 2 years ago | (#40298969)

(Please forget everything you learned from the Oatmeal about Tesla and Edison [forbes.com]. Other than that, I'm modding you up because I completely agree with you.)

Please apply some critical thinking to everything that both Forbes and The Oatmeal have to say about Edison [theoatmeal.com].

Re:It's all about the protocol (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40299289)

The Oatmeal's response to the Forbes article was even worse than the original cartoon. "Oh, you called me out on how much of a shithead I was being? Well it was just a cartoon so that makes it okay and it means if you criticize me somehow YOU are the buffoon because, see, CARTOON!!!!111!" Basically just a bunch of whining about the power difference between being a random web cartoonist and a Forbes columnist, with some doubling down on the evil-Edison vs. saintly-Tesla memes he'd used uncritically in his original cartoon.

Yeah, ok, Oatmeal's author, why don't you go take a long walk off a short pier? Sometimes it's appropriate to talk about how you're just a tiny voice being oppressed by The Man, but the Forbes guy didn't abuse his relative position of power. He just pointed out how you were full of shit. Being full of shit is an everyman kind of thing, anybody can do it. You did, you don't want to own up to it, so fuck off.

Re:It's all about the protocol (1)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#40299293)

I love theoatmeal.com, but logic isn't really his strong suit. His meta-rebuttal still falls short, and his strip on "War in the name of atheism" doesn't address the fact that, indeed, state-enforced atheism was part of the policies of both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. They didn't actually go to war over atheism, but people were persecuted for opposing the policies. The results were the same: a bunch of dead or imprisoned people.

Re:It's all about the protocol (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 2 years ago | (#40298877)

> There is a certain value to making something actually work.

He can't claim credit for that either.

Re:It's all about the protocol (1)

hardluck86 (2653957) | about 2 years ago | (#40298915)

He still invented the light bulb, dammit!)

Ehhhh.... well, no actually he didn't.
Sorry.
The light bulb was invented by a couple of Canadians.
They couldn't afford to get it working fully and sold it to Edison. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/cool/002027-2003-e.html [collectionscanada.gc.ca]

Edison (well, his lab monkeys anyway) DID get a viable working version going though.

Re:It's all about the protocol (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 2 years ago | (#40299039)

Edison (well, his lab monkeys anyway) DID get a viable working version going though.

That's my definition of "invented." There are other definitions that are perfectly reasonable, and clearly the Edison-lightbulb thing doesn't fit yours.

Hmm ... maybe different definitions of "invented" are what this kerfuffle is really about.

more importantly (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#40298677)

who invented Noam Chomsky?

I mean as some sort of authority figure

Re:more importantly (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 2 years ago | (#40298777)

The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual's own reason and critical analysis.
--Dalai Lama

Re:more importantly (2, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#40298937)

LOL

a statement against authority figures, and an appeal to reason, as spoken by an authority figure

I agree with the quote, I just find the paradox funny

Noam Chomsky is... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298799)

the Ayn Rand of the Left.

He's spun his notoriety/fame form one specific field into being a 'Guru' to a legion of followers who don't _think_ independently about what he pontificates.

email or "email"? (1)

Michael_gr (1066324) | about 2 years ago | (#40299009)

Remember Alice in wonderland? ...`Or else it doesn't, you know. The name of the song is called "Haddocks' Eyes."' `Oh, that's the name of the song, is it?' Alice said, trying to feel interested. `No, you don't understand,' the Knight said, looking a little vexed. `That's what the name is called. The name really is "The Aged Aged Man."' `Then I ought to have said "That's what the song is called"?' Alice corrected herself. `No, you oughtn't: that's quite another thing! The song is called "Ways and Means": but that's only what it's called, you know!' `Well, what is the song, then?' said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered. Mr. Ayyadurai is the inventor of "email" ( a computer program) and may be the inventor of "email" (the word used today to describe electronic massages) but he is not the inventor of email (the concept and protocol of sending electronic messages). Mr Ayyadurai does not explicitely claim to have invented it, I believe, but he is guilty of making his claim murky enough so that people will THINK this is what he is claiming.

The claim is Ayyadurai coined the WORD "email" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40299195)

not that he invented the concept of mail-like electronic messaging, that goes back to the 1960's. The 60's were before my time, but I was using the ARPAnet in the late 1970's, I used the MAIL and MM programs all the time, they were called "mail" or sometimes even "electronic mail", but the term "email" (at first usually hyphenated as "e-mail") didn't become widespread til the 80's and seemed like an annoying neologism to me at that time. I think sometime in the 1980's, Donald Knuth published something urging people to leave out the hyphen, and that is about when I got comfortable with the term.

You insen5i7ive clod! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40299307)

start a holy war parts. The current all know we want. the wind aapeared completely before clearly become The goodwill at least.' Nobody to get some eye series of exploding

His website has comments on the main page. (1)

DrEnter (600510) | about 2 years ago | (#40299347)

That website of his [inventorofemail.com] (which makes some pretty ridiculous claims) has a public comments section. Disqus is an option for sign-in.

Hate and Envy (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 2 years ago | (#40299403)

Noam Chomsky and the linked website go out of the way to not mention Ray Tomlinson. Mr Chomsky does not compare Tomlinson's program from 1971 to Ayyadurai's program in 1977. A real argument would go feature by feature and explain what was present and what was missing. Instead Chomsky pretends Tomlinson doesn't exist. The linked site http://www.inventorofemail.com/ [inventorofemail.com] even has the gall to refer to Tomlinson as a mascot instead of using his name. All evidense is hand waved away with no explanation. Why do the RFC not count? No explanation. For some reason Chomsky is hung up on what the program is named. Suddendly naming your invention in english is important.

This is soooo not worth anyone's time... (1)

Lord_Jeremy (1612839) | about 2 years ago | (#40299435)

I don't usually start my own threads but I just want this comment to stand alone....

Who the fuck cares who invented email?!! This guy is pretty obviously a nut. I mean come on how full of yourself do you actually have to be to register inventorofemail.com

Industry Insiders? (2)

medv4380 (1604309) | about 2 years ago | (#40299467)

Chomsky is confused. Every hacker, and computer geek knows, or at least should know, that this guy is a lier. I'd hardly call the opinions of the average Slashdotter the opinion of an Industry Insider. More like Industry Anarchist.
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