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Indian-origin creator V A Shiva Ayyadurai the legitimate father of ‘Email’?

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Image source: theverge.com

New Delhi: The death of ‘supposed’ inventor of Email, Ray Tomlinson, on March 5, made the world talking about Mumbai-born V A Shiva Ayyadurai.

Tomlinson has been variously called email’s godfather, father and inventor, for having created a message transfer system between two computers in the same room in the 1970s.

He did this as an employee of a defence contractor. Most memorably, he is credited with having chosen the “@” sign.

However, Email has an Indian-origin creator too: Mumbai-born V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai.

Remember Marconi, famous for inventing radio? The world later realised that Jagadish Chandra Bose was the real inventor. Once again, top academics, including the venerable Noam Chomsky at MIT, have come forward to validate that V A Shiva Ayyadurai is the actual inventor of Email.

But there are two key differences. Bose didn’t live on to stake his claim to history while Ayyadurai has been fighting a losing battle to set the record straight. But most importantly, he has a US government document to support his claim.

As a high school student in 1979, Ayyadurai, then age 14, developed an electronic version of an interoffice mail system, which he called “EMAIL”. He copyrighted it in 1982.

Ayyadurai’s EMAIL started as a system of electronic message management that digitised the old-fashioned process of writing a memo, routing a memo with “To”, “Cc” (carbon copies) and “BCC”, and storing memos in folders. He developed this software at the College of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 1978.

The US government certified the official copyright on EMAIL on August 30, 1982, for Dr. V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai’s 1978 invention. At that time, computer software and code could not be patented in the USA. Ayyadurai went on to earn four degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), including a PhD.

Email transformed our business communication and collaboration like no other technology. It’s probably the longest-surviving of Internet tools, in its various forms and designs. It also evolved over the next decade, but the fundamentals stayed as they were in 1978, with one notable addition: The now-ubiquitous “@” between the name and the host server, courtesy of the late Tomlinson.

Why does academic credit matter? Because the journey matters, the motivation matters and history matters to generations of inventors, dreamers and entrepreneurs deserve to know the truth. Big change happens in small places when opportunity meets people who are driven to find answers. That’s how email, as we know it, came to be.

Tomlinson’s work and selection of the “@” identifier advanced email among outside computers and used TCP/IP as the basic building block of this communication system. Electronic messaging existed prior to that, within networks (which we now call ‘intranets’) and non-TCP/IP systems.

The story of email exemplifies the journey of a team that included a precocious Indian-born teenager, eager to be useful in America — grateful for the later opportunity to earn four degrees at MIT, after inventing and copyrighting the EMAIL system — and the human desire to solve problems.

For far too long we have all been led to believe that communication’s greatest innovations came out of defence research, inspired by the needs of war. Great innovations can be inspired to advance life, not just retrofitted from defence technologies.

Email was created in a place of light and cooperation and it is important for people across the world to understand and appreciate this. Telling the truth about the invention of email in Newark, New Jersey, therefore, is a historical imperative toward breaking this blind belief in the supremacy of defence research to reveal a fundamental truth. Innovation can occur, anytime, anyplace by anybody, and war and profit are not its necessary and required impetus.

Despite much coverage in the US and global media as the inventor of email, including in Time in “The Man Who Invented Email”, Ayyadurai has been attacked in the US as an imposter, someone who merely registered a program called EMAIL, rather than invent email.

To them, MIT’s Noam Chomsky has this to say:

“Email, upper case, lower case, any case, is the electronic version of the interoffice, inter-organizational mail system, the email we all experience today — and email was invented in 1978 by a 14-year-old working in Newark, New Jersey. The facts are indisputable.” (Arvind Gupta and Prasanto K Roy, IANS)

  • Some Where

    Sadly though, the lie that Ayyadurai invented email has been thoroughly debunked by, you know, everyone who was actually involved in inventing email, something long in use by the time Ayyadurai got a copyright on his version, named “EMAIL”. But just because you build a plane and name it AIRPLANE doesn’t make you the inventor of the airplane.

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Work Emails Cause Disruptions in Personal Life: Study

Mindfulness is within the employees' control, email expectations are not.

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Your work emails can affect your health, relationships
Your work emails can affect your health, relationships Pixabay

Does your boss expects you to be ever-connected on emails and work without boundaries? If so, besides causing harm to your health and well-being, it could also lead to conflict in family relationships, a new study has revealed.

Stress due to employers’ expectations of work during non-working hours brings strain in the family ties as the employee is unable to fulfil non-work roles at home.

Such expectations are “an insidious stressor that not only increases employee anxiety, decreases their relationship satisfaction and has detrimental effects on employee health, but it also negatively affects their partner’s health and marital satisfaction perceptions,” said Liuba Belkin, Associate Professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, US.

Employees do not need to spend actual time on work in their off-hours to experience the harmful effects.

If the nature of a job requires email availability, such expectations should be stated .Pixabay
If the nature of a job requires email availability, such expectations should be stated. Pixabay

The mere expectations of availability increase strain for employees and their significant others — even when employees do not engage in actual work during non-work time.

“The competing demands of work and non-work lives present a dilemma for employees, which triggers feelings of anxiety and endangers work and personal lives,” added William Becker, Associate Professor at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the US.

The findings were presented at the Academy of Management’s annual meeting in Chicago.

According to Becker, policies that reduce expectations to monitor electronic communication outside of work should be ideal to mitigate the adverse effects of negative health outcomes.

When that is not an option, the solution may be to establish boundaries on when electronic communication is acceptable during off-hours by setting up off-hour email windows or schedules when employees are available to respond.

Emails
If the nature of a job requires email availability, such expectations should be stated. Pixabay

Importantly, organisational expectations should be communicated clearly, Becker noted.

“If the nature of a job requires email availability, such expectations should be stated formally as a part of job responsibilities.”

Knowing these expectations upfront may reduce anxiety in employees and increase understanding from their family members, he said.

Also Read: 8 Steps to Help You Secure Your Work Creativity

As for employees, they could consider practising mindfulness, which may help them to “be present” in family interactions, and help reduce conflict and improve relationship satisfaction, said Becker.

However, while mindfulness is within the employees’ control, email expectations are not, he added. (IANS)