[SIGCIS-Members] Resources on Ayyadurai saga

McMillan, William W william.mcmillan at cuaa.edu
Fri Jan 6 04:56:12 PST 2017


Isn't the claim more to the well-developed metaphor of a mail system similar to a physical office mail system?

For example, Kay and Xerox can claim priority to the UI desktop metaphor, even though all the operations it implemented existed previously in command-line systems.

The parry and riposte to pointing out mail/messaging capabilities of early systems is that, yes, they had similar functions, but that they had not been developed into a coherent metaphor for a complete real-world mail system.

.... not that this is a valid claim ...

Once you get into the UI widget, look-and-feel, metaphor space, the ground gets soft.

- Bill

________________________________
From: Members [members-bounces at lists.sigcis.org] on behalf of Jordi Fornes [jfornes at ac.upc.edu]
Sent: Friday, January 06, 2017 4:41 AM
To: Guy Fedorkow
Cc: Thomas Haigh; members at lists.sigcis.org
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Resources on Ayyadurai saga

That’s the point. What is an email? At least since 1975 (in the sixth edition of the Unix programmer’s manual) the command “mail” exists “to send mail to designated users”.
I have not access to the source code of BSD Unix, but it was developed with a source control revision system, so it should be available somewhere. I'm almost certain that the “mail” command in 4 BSD (circa 1980)  sent mail over TCP/IP.

At all events, we need a definition of email, accepted by the community of experts, before talk about “firsts” (in my opinion, a trap keyword in history of science).

Best wishes,

—
Dr Jordi Fornés
jfornes at ac.upc.edu<mailto:jfornes at ac.upc.edu>
+34 934 054 064
Computer Architecture Department
Room D6-102
Campus Nord, Barcelona





On 5 Jan 2017, at 20:30, Guy Fedorkow <guy.fedorkow at gmail.com<mailto:guy.fedorkow at gmail.com>> wrote:

Tom,
  As I remember from the last round, the disagreement seemed to be over the definition of "email", wasn't it?  I don't think there was a denial that messages were sent between computer terminals prior to the plucky young contributor's work, but that only after that point did the technology truly deserve the appellation "EMAIL", as allegedly proven by the grant of copyright?
  It does seem like there's been a certain fluidity in choosing whether the argument of the day is based on the name or the functional characteristics...
  But a refutation might want to consider both factors, i.e., evidence that the term email was in wide use, and that the claimed functionality (beyond just sending a message, although I don't remember what it was) was in use prior to the alleged invention.
/guy


On 1/5/2017 12:56 PM, Thomas Haigh wrote:
Thanks Dave,

The other advice I have for anyone commenting on this case is to keep the argument simple.

There are a lot of invention controversies along the lines of “Big famous company X says that it invented technology Y in (date 2), but actually plucky inventor Z had previously come up with the same technology in (date 1). Because date 1 is earlier than date 2 we should remember plucky inventor Z as the true inventor of Y, despite the PR and legal resources of company X which denied him recognition.” That’s the narrative that Ayyadurai is telling about himself, and reporters are liable to turn it into an Ayyadurai vs. Tomlinson contest. Discussion of such claims head in the direction of debates on whether plucky inventor Z’s simple prototype really counts as inventing the technology.

What’s different about this case is that plucky inventor Z claims to have invented email in either 1980 or, more recently, in 1978 (and has shown code snippets that appears to come from 1982). Whereas historians already knew that simple electronic mail systems were in use at MIT in 1965, that electronic mail was sent over what became the Internet in 1971, that spam was sent in 1978, that Xerox had a recognizably modern GUI client by that time etc. So the features of Ayyadurai’s system are not the important thing in assessing his claim to be “the inventor of email.” I have no reason to doubt that he produced a perfectly good local email system. But Ayyadurai is only “the inventor of email” if nothing done prior to 1978 (or 1980 or 1982) was email.  In other words, he’s trying to use the classic “plucky suppressed inventor” narrative even though his date 1 is many years later than the established date 2.

To rebut this claim one doesn’t need to designate any individual as THE inventor of email, merely to reiterate the historical consensus that email is a synonym for electronic mail and that electronic mail was in use prior to 1978 (or 1980 or 1982). However smart and likeable you are, you can’t invent something that’s already been invented.

Best wishes,

Tom

From: dave.walden.family at gmail.com<mailto:dave.walden.family at gmail.com> [mailto:dave.walden.family at gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, January 05, 2017 10:02 AM
To: Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com><mailto:thomas.haigh at gmail.com>
Cc: Christine Finn <christine.finn at gmail.com><mailto:christine.finn at gmail.com>; David Golumbia <dgolumbia at gmail.com><mailto:dgolumbia at gmail.com>; Sigcis<members at sigcis.org><mailto:members at sigcis.org>
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] Resources on Ayyadurai saga

Maybe the document should be something like a friend-of-court brief that is provided to the defense attorney rather than a public document and the court if the case ever goes to court.  There is plenty of time for public documents later.  I would think that passing Tom's list below to the defense attorney would already be useful.
Best regards, Dave
 http://walden-family.com/bbn/email-invention.html (not updated in several years)

Sent from my iPad


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