No One Wanted To Give Credit A Dark Skinned Guy, Says Indo-American Inventor Of Email


V A Shiva Ayyadurai was 14 years old when he developed the technology we now know as email. But despite having received “official recognition” of his creation by the U.S. government, some still question whether he was the veritable founder.

WASHINGTON – Email turned 32 but how many of us know that this quick method of message transfer was invented by Indo-American V A Shiva Ayyadurai.

Ayyadurai was 14 years old when he developed the technology we now know as email. But despite having received “official recognition” of his creation by the U.S. government, some still question whether he was the veritable founder.

Ayyadurai’s former colleague Robert Field explained the discrepancy and defended Ayyadurai in a blog on The Huffington Post. According to Field, “multi-billion dollar defense company” Raytheon BBN Technologies generated “their entire brand … based on claims of having ‘invented email,'” then unleashed a PR campaign to “discredit email’s origins” as well as Shiva’s claim to having invented it.

Ayyadurai explained that he thinks these allegations stem from people who are both economically and racially prejudiced.

“The reality is this: in 1978, there was a 14-year-old boy and he was the first to create electronic office system. He called it email, a term that had never been used before, and then he went and got official recognition by the U.S. government,” he told Huffpost host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani, referring to himself.

Ayyadurai said his modest background prevented him from getting the recognition he deserved.

“After that took place, you have a sense of disbelief among people that comes from not so much the technology issue, but there’s a lot of economic issues associated here,” he continued. “[The discovery] wasn’t done at MIT; it wasn’t done at the military; it wasn’t done at a big institution. It was done in Newark, NJ, one of the poorest cities in the United States. It was done by a dark-skinned immigrant kid, 14 years old.”

The creation of email falls under the pretext of the “American dream,” Ayyadurai explained, and he feels that those who challenge him as the inventor are afraid of upward mobility and change.

“The narrative there is what changes and shocks certain people who want to control the narrative that innovation can only take place under their bastions,” he said. “The truth is that the American dream is really about [the fact that] innovation can take place anytime, by anybody.”

In 1978, Ayyadurai created a computer programme, which he called “email,” that replicated all the functions of the interoffice 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 U.S. government officially recognised Ayyadurai as the inventor of email by awarding him the first U.S. Copyright for Email for his 1978 invention. At that time copyright was the only way to protect software inventions. Email wasn’t 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, Huffington Post said.

Ayyadurai was born to a Tamil Family in Bombay. At the age of seven, he left with his family to live in the U.S.. At 14, 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.

Ayyadurai’s talent, passion and commitment immediately impressed Dr 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 of office-to-office communications was the interoffice mail system. This system was not unique to UMDNJ but used in nearly every office including those of presidents and prime ministers.

Ayyadurai closely observed that the desktop of each secretary, in addition to the typewriter, had an Inbox, Outbox, Drafts, Carbon Copy Paper, Folders, Address Book, Paper Clips (for attachments), etc, which they used each day to create and process incoming and outgoing mail. The he conceived an electronic version of this system. He created a computer programme of over 50,000 lines of code, which electronically replicated all the features of the interoffice mail system.