[SIGCIS-Members] Ayyadurai & Wozniak both surprised me today...

Dag Spicer dspicer at computerhistory.org
Tue Mar 21 01:12:45 PDT 2017

Wasn’t email invented at Bowling Green?


On Mar 21, 2017, at 12:03 AM, Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com<mailto:thomas.haigh at gmail.com>> wrote:


Two things which I cannot but share with you. First, Ayyadurai’s lawyers have filed their documents disputing Techdirt’s various motions to have the case dismissed, moved to California, and subjected to anti-SLAPP provisions. Find them here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/3lxh568s9sg3kvp/AACd4nwyODhepiRsibS9n4kla?dl=0

Interesting detail there re SIGCIS. So, you may remember that way back in January, when Ayyadurai issued a media kit to go with his lawsuit, http://inventorofemail.com/thefacts/. Among other things, that said that

Part of this cabal is a group called Special Interest Group for Computers, Information and Society (SIGCIS). Under the aegis of its "scholarly" blog, its chief spokesperson attacked Dr. Ayyadurai as well as any other experts and journalists who dared to share the historical facts about email's origin from Newark, New Jersey. At the same time, this "scholar" thanked "special interests" from Raytheon/BBN and the ARPANET community for supporting and contributing to his verbal lynching of Dr. Ayyadurai….. All of this took place, while these "scholars" and "historians" deliberately ignored the plagiaristic and truly self-promotional history of Raytheon, and praised the "aw shucks" humility of Ray Tomlinson, the non-inventor of email.

So that sounds ominous, right? Cabal, fake scholar, verbal lynching, and defamatory comments. And don’t get him started on the “Editorial Board of the journal IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, which publishes false histories of email.” Or on Wikipedia. Well there’s a bit of a 180 degree turn in his latest legal filing.

The article cited by Defendants and included with their motion highlights the difference between attacking Dr. Ayyadurai’s email invention claim compared to attacking Dr. Ayyadurai’s personal and professional reputation. As Exhibit B to their motion (Doc. 13-2), Defendants attach the article entitled “Did V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai Invent Email?” written by Thomas Haigh (SIGCIS) (Aug. 4, 2015), available at http://www.sigcis.org/ayyadurai.... Mr. Haigh’s article analyzes Dr. Ayyadurai’s email invention claim and reaches a contrary conclusion. But, while disagreeing with Dr. Ayyadurai, Mr. Haigh’s article does not attack Dr. Ayyadurai’s personal and professional reputation or ethics. Mr. Haigh does not call Dr. Ayyadurai a liar or a fraud, does not proclaim that Dr. Ayyadurai built his entire reputation on the claim of email invention, and does not claim that Dr. Ayyadurai lied to, defrauded, or improperly misled anyone. In this respect, Defendants’ statements and campaign to destroy Dr. Ayyadurai’s reputation are from the antithesis of Mr. Haigh’s article.

So, I guess the article is not defamatory after all. Though, to misquote Austin Powers, I didn’t spend six years in Evil historian school to be called “mister,” thank you very much.

But that’s not the only unexpected news. I’m in California at the end of the recent string of meetings at the Computer History Museum, culminating in a strikingly lively and diverse SIGCIS. Who should show up for my talk “The Other Women of ENIAC: Rethinking the Myths of Innovation” with the local IEEE CS history group tonight? Why, only Steve Wozniak. Who tweeted the event, chatted a bit before the talk, sat through the whole thing, and asked a question at the end. Giving my usual critique of Walter Isaacson’s books and the myth of innovation as the sole province of geniuses, geeks, and hackers felt a little different in the presence of someone who is rather prominent in that very narrative and arguably fits all three categories pretty well (given a domain-specific view of genius). But maybe he also felt some resonance with my conclusions that the ENIAC team were less superheroes than smart (to very smart), hardworking (to obsessive) people, lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time & supported by the right institutions.

After last night’s appearance of Ted Nelson inside a telepresence robot at the CHM party to celebrate the IEEE Milestone plaque for Engelbart’s “Mother of All Demos,” and my chance earlier to give the ENIAC talk to a wonderfully well informed club of computer scientists and engineers up in Woodside, I’m feeling that I’ve had the most quintessentially Silicon Valley visit I could have had (short of making a failed pitch to a venture capitalist and then being run over by a Tesla).

Best wishes,


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