I was recently asked this question by my 25 year old daughter, as we we discussed work environments in the “old days”.
She could not imagine a desk without a computer or laptop. Her next question was “how did you communicate with people?”. I know that intellectually she knew this from history books (or more likely, TV shows), but as she enters the workforce she was trying to imagine what a work life would be without a computer on your desk or access to email.
I explained to her that the secretaries had typewriters on their desks along with a phone and management had pens, paper and a phone! We wrote letters or memos and actually spoke to people on the phone. I also told her that I was advised by my mother to never learn to type so that I wouldn’t have to be a secretary! (another story)
My education was geared to NOT being a secretary, teacher or nurse which at the time were the main fields open to women. My daughter grew up in the age where her education progressed as technology has progressed and the options for her future are endless. Rapid communication and dissemination of information are second nature to her. She can find an answer to almost any questions in seconds.
Which leads me to the story of a young 14 year boy who was tasked with creating a full scale electronic version of the inter-office paper mail system. In 1978, Shiva Ayyadura created the first prototype of electronic mail coining the phrase “email”.
A complete time line of the invention can be found here.
Others have claimed the invention but supporting papers, computer code and artifacts irrefutably credit young Shiva with the invention of email. These documents have now been accepted into the permanent archives of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
It should be noted that a fourteen year old was creative and determined enough to find a solution to the paper communication system…not a corporation. Young people ARE our future. Education, opportunity and creativity are key components to making the world a better place for all.
Here’s to Shiva and his invention of email! This electronic inter-office paper mail system is one of the reasons that computers are now on almost every desk!