[SIGCIS-Members] Resources on Ayyadurai saga

Jonathan Coopersmith j-coopersmith at tamu.edu
Fri Jan 6 07:30:05 PST 2017

But wait, there's more:

FWIW, the newsletter *Electronic Mail and Message Systems* began in 1977.

Definitely a need for a few articles aimed at different audiences.  One
possibility is *AHA Perspectives* for historians, but we should reach the
technical and business communities too.  Theconversation.com is a good
conduit to reach a wide audience too and I'm happy to contact the
technology editor if anyone wants to write a piece.
My challenge is a backlog of deadlines, a situation common to many of us.


Jonathan Coopersmith
Department of History
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX  77843-4236
979.862.4314 (fax)
latest post is "Coal Comfort.  Is Hillary Clinton being 'Al Gored'?" at

* FAXED.  The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine* (Johns Hopkins University
Press) is the co-recipient of the 2016 Business History Conference Hagley
Prize for best book in business history.

On Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 1:30 PM, Guy Fedorkow <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
> <dave.walden.family at gmail.com>]
> *Sent:* Thursday, January 05, 2017 10:02 AM
> *To:* Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com> <thomas.haigh at gmail.com>
> *Cc:* Christine Finn <christine.finn at gmail.com> <christine.finn at gmail.com>;
> David Golumbia <dgolumbia at gmail.com> <dgolumbia at gmail.com>; Sigcis
> <members at sigcis.org> <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
> _______________________________________________
> This email is relayed from members at sigcis.org, the email discussion
> list of SHOT SIGCIS. Opinions expressed here are those of the member
> posting and are not reviewed, edited, or endorsed by SIGCIS. The list
> archives are at http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/ and
> you can change your subscription options at http://lists.sigcis.org/
> listinfo.cgi/members-sigcis.org
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.sigcis.org/pipermail/members-sigcis.org/attachments/20170106/b8e2658b/attachment-0001.htm>

More information about the Members mailing list