AUGUST 30: The email inventor debate

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ABOVE: Shiva Ayyudurai (top) has said he’s the inventor of email. Many believe Raymond Tomlinson (below) introduced electronic messaging.

ON THIS DATE in 1982, eighteen-year-old Shiva Ayyadurai copyrighted the term “EMAIL.” Did he also invent electronic messaging? The Indian American from New Jersey says yes — One of his websites is titled and states his case for being the originator of email.

What is known is that in 1978, the fourteen-year-old Ayyadurai began working on an electronic mail system for a New Jersey medical/dental university where his mother worked. Two years later, he had completed an e-mail system.

In 2011, TIME magazine called Ayyadurai “The Man Who Invented EMail” in a headline, and a 2012 Washington Post story appeared under the heading, “V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai: Inventor of email honored by Smithsonian.” A number of readers charged that Shiva had no claim to the invention, and the newspaper printed a correction that stated, “A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai as the inventor of electronic messaging.”


In 2013, Ayyadurai was often seen with former “The Nanny” star Fran Drescher, fifty-six. It was reported that they were dating.

Thomas Haigh, a computer historian and assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, responded angrily to the Post story. “Mail features became common on the timesharing computers of the late 1960s,” he wrote.

The Internet Hall of Fame ( credits thirty-year-old Raymond Tomlinson with creating the first e-mail system in 1971. A profile on the website says Tomlinson “is widely known for inventing network electronic mail, choosing the ‘@’ sign in emails to connect the username with the destination address.”

One of Ayyadurai’s supporters is famed intellectual Noam Chomsky, who wrote that “email was invented in 1978 by a 14-year-old working in Newark, NJ,” wrote Chomsky. “ The facts are indisputable.”

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