[TUHS] attachments: MIME and uuencode

Mary Ann Horton mah at mhorton.net
Sun Mar 12 05:07:26 AEST 2017

I just heard from a historian named Piotr Klaban with an interesting 
historical sidelight.

Apparently today 3/11/17 is being publicized as the 25th anniversary of 
the email attachment, citing Nat Borenstein's MIME.  Piotr points out 
that uuencode predates MIME, and he's right.

I checked and, while I don't have any email archives from that time 
frame at Berkeley, I was able to find the 4BSD archive on minnie that 
dates the uuencode.1c man page at 6/1/80.  We didn't call them 
attachments back then, just sending binary files by email.  (Prior to 
then it was common to just include the text of the file raw in the 
email, which only worked for ASCII files.)  It was a few years later 
when cc:Mail and Microsoft Mail started calling uuencoded files embedded 
in email "attachments".

When MIME came out in 1992 I became a champion of SMTP/MIME as a 
standard - it was a big improvement.  But uuencod predated MIME by 12 years.

     Mary Ann

More information about the TUHS mailing list