[TUHS] attachments: MIME and uuencode

Mary Ann Horton mah at mhorton.net
Mon Mar 13 09:43:32 AEST 2017

Uuencode was very basic.  It could be used for what later was called 
"attachments", but it couldn't handle rich text message bodies, multiple 
attachments, and it had security issues and UNIX-specific content.  The 
coolness factor of Borenstein's original "let me sing you email" was all 
it took to get us hooked.

     Mary Ann

On 03/11/2017 05:14 PM, Dan Cross wrote:
> On Sat, Mar 11, 2017 at 6:05 PM, Mary Ann Horton <mah at mhorton.net 
> <mailto:mah at mhorton.net>> wrote:
>     Possible?  Yes. Convenient?  No.
>     You could cat several uuencode files together and send them in one
>     email.  You'd have to edit them on the receiving end into separate
>     files and uudecode them separately.  In practice, you'd uuencode a
>     tarball.
>     MIME was a major advance, and what's telling is that 25 years
>     later, SMTP/MIME is still the standard.
> This is so interesting. Not to be argumentative about it but I felt it 
> was actually something of a regression. Something like making a file 
> available via an FTP server (possible in an executable but unreadable 
> directory with an obscure name) or just in some directory in an 
> organization where a filesystem was shared and sending a pointer to 
> the file via email seemed much more efficient, particularly if one was 
> sending to multiple recipients. Attaching files to email as MIME 
> components felt like trying to turn email into a filesystem, and SMTP 
> into a file transfer protocol. The way I saw it, email was email and 
> we already had file transfer protocols....
> It seemed like MIME really took off when Microsoft embraced it; before 
> that, plain ol' text seemed much more common. My sense at the time was 
> that networked filesystems and services like FTP (or the then-nascent 
> HTTP) were far less commonplace on the MS platform, so email as a 
> content distribution mechanism was more natural in that world. I was 
> somewhat dismayed at the inability to make Windows users see the 
> light; in retrospect, of course, this just means that I myself was 
> missing something critical.
> Mary Ann, why did you consider it such a step forward? I'm really 
> curious about the reasoning from folks involved with such things at 
> the time.
>         - Dan C.

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