[TUHS] who invented the email attachment?

William Corcoran wlc at jctaylor.com
Sun Mar 19 10:12:14 AEST 2017

Hello Ms. Horton,

In reading your initial part of your question, my visceral response was to think "the email attachment was created by whoever developed uuencode."

Only, to discover you wrote uuencode.

So, who created the email attachment?  Mary Ann Horton created the email attachment.  That's who.


Bill Corcoran

On Mar 18, 2017, at 7:46 PM, Mary Ann Horton <mah at mhorton.net<mailto:mah at mhorton.net>> wrote:

I'd like the opinion of this August Group.

Should I make a claim to be the inventor of the email attachment?  (It would go on my web site, resume, the Wikipedia page, that sort of thing.)

Here's my understanding of the time line on all of this.

 1.  Originally, our files were all plain text and we just included them in the email message body.  The ~r command in Kurt Shoen's Mail program was typical.  There was no name for this, we were just emailing files.
 2.  In 1980, I wrote uuencode.  It's stated purpose was to "encode a binary file for transmission by email".  I didn't use the term "attachment".  It became part of 4.0BSD and later systems, and was widely used.
 3.  In 1985, Lotus created cc:Mail.  It eventually included attachments, using a file store method.  When they added an SMTP gateway later, it used uuencode as the format.  I believe cc:Mail first used the term "attachment".
 4.  Microsoft did the same thing with MS Mail somewhat later, possibly in the 1990s.  It also used uuencode in the SMTP gateway.
 5.  In 1992, Nathaniel Borenstein and Ned Freed invented MIME.  It had a different (and IMHO much better) way to send attachments, and it became an Internet Standard sometime later, possibly in 1996.

What do you all think?

    Mary Ann

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