Love it or hate it, there’s no debating just how much e-mail has changed the way we communicate.
Since the 1990s, electronic mail has eclipsed snail mail and the fax to become the standard in the business world, and although social media sites are edging in on personal online messaging, e-mail still holds strong in that arena.
You may use it everyday, but how much do you know about e-mail? Do you know who sent the first message? What the biggest webmail provider is in the U.S.? What about the most common Hotmail password?
We’ve found 10 fascinating facts about electronic mail. Have a read, and do share in the comments below any relevant trivia you know on the topic.
1. What Was the First E-mail Message?
Ray Tomlinson is credited as being the first person to hit send on a network e-mail message.
Tomlinson had not been specifically tasked to develop e-mail, but he was working out some useful applications for MIT’s ARPANET project (which later evolved into the Internet). He took the time to work on e-mail “mostly because it seemed like a neat idea.”
Sent between two side-by-side computers, the first message was a small step for e-communications, but an important one. Tomlinson says he can’t remember the content of that first message but it likely read “testing 123″ or “QWERTYUIOP” — the letters found on the top line of a QWERTY keyboard.
2. Where Did the Word Spam Come From?
The term spam is widely thought to have come from the above Monty Python sketch, where its incessant chanting by Vikings (naturally!) drowns out all meaning.
These days, while the term refers to nuisance e-mail, it seems the phrase pre-dates e-mail as we know it, and has been traced back to online role playing chat rooms from the ’80s called MUDs. Generally, the term refers to any type of abusive online behavior.
3. What’s the Most Common E-mail Password?
We are nothing if not unimaginative with our e-mail passwords. It seems “123456″ is the all-time most popular choice for protecting our precious online correspondence. This sequence came out on top in 2009 when 10,000 Hotmail passwords were exposed online. (“123456″ also topped the list of passwords in the recent Gawker hack.) Come on netizens — must try harder.
4. What is Google’s Spam-Flavored Easter Egg?
Google has a little fun with spam via an Easter egg that can be viewed in any Gmail account. Opening the “Spam” folder turns the “web clips” display into recipes for the canned pork product. Spam Primavera, Spam Swiss Pie, Creamy Spam Broccoli Casserole and Spam Veggie Pita Pockets are just four examples of the delicious recipe links Google offers. Mmmmmm, Spam.
5. What is the @ Sign in Morse Code?
Despite the rise in popularity of e-mail in the late 20th century, Morse code didn’t get a character for the “@” sign until 2004.
The string combines Morse for “A” and “C,” and is known as the “commat,” an abbreviation of “commercial at.”
6. How Do You Spell E-mail?
So is it e-mail, email, Email, E-Mail, E-mail or eMail?
That depends who you ask. While many dictionaries and style guides are beginning to drop the hyphen and the caps in favor of “email,” the The Associated Press Stylebook still insists on seeing the word as an abbreviation of “electronic mail” and therefore sticks with e-mail. Here at Mashable, we do the same.
7. What’s the Biggest Webmail Service in the U.S.?
As of September 2010, Compete revealed that, based on the U.S. Internet browsing population, Yahoo! Mail clearly dominates. Hotmail — or “Windows Live Hotmail,” as Microsoft insists on calling it these days — comes in second. A little upstart known as Gmail looks positively minnow-esque in third place.
8. What is the @ Sign Called?
In English, “@” is commonly known as the “at” sign or symbol — or if you want to be adventurous, the “commercial at.” Other languages have much more poetic ways to describe the symbol, many of them animal-related.
In Dutch, it’s apestaart — “monkey’s tail.”
In Swedish, it’s snabel-a — “A” with an elephant’s trunk.
And in Italian, it’s chiocciolina — small snail.
Other languages nickname it “mouse’s tail,” “sleeping cat,” “little duck,” “dog,” and “little worm.”
9. When Was the First E-mail Sent From Space?
“Hello Earth! Greetings from the STS-43 Crew. This is the first AppleLink from space. Having a GREAT time, wish you were here… send cryo and RCS! Hasta la vista, baby… we’ll be back!”
Oh, and if you guessed from the latter part of the message that 1991 was also the year Terminator 2: Judgment Day came out, you’d be correct.
10. Which Animated Character’s E-mail Was Hacked?
It was everyone’s favorite donut-loving, dysfunctional dad — Homer Simpson. Simpson’s e-mail address — firstname.lastname@example.org — was revealed in The Dad Who Knew Too Little.
Back in 2003, a Simpsons writer used to reply to messages in-character until the address became unmanageable due to sheer volume of mail.
Once the address was inactive, some dastardly hackers sent messages from the account to people who had added chunkylover53 to their AIM buddy list. The messages promised exclusive access to a new Simpsons episode, but instead delivered nothing but malware.