It was precisely 25 years ago today that I received my first email. Ironically, its relic is not well conserved. As if it was a historical parchment document, time has gnawed away its left margin and I had to reconstruct much of it. To explain this I need to tell a long-winded story.
At this time, a typical file still looked like a deck of punched cards. On punched cards, you could store program statements or text lines. But if the card pack fell to the ground it was very dangerous if it contained program statements and they lost their sequence. (For instance, consider your salary calculation where the multiplication of the tax factor was swapped with the addition of supplement payments.) So it was common to punch sequence numbers onto columns 73 through 80. When cards decks were gradually absorbed by disk datasets, sequence numbers were still very common. So one day, my poor mailbook file (“U.$28.LOG.MISC”) accidently got such sequence numbers which, on some other day, destroyed the columns 1-8.
If you wonder why the sent and received dates differ by more than 3 days, this does not mean that our teleprocessing lines were that slow. After all, we had a 9.600 bits per second link to Darmstadt (60 kilometers north) by which the entire academic south of Germany was connected to the entire north (and I forgot how many thousand Deutsche Mark the monthly fee was). The reason for the delay is simply that I did not yet check my email daily….