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SMS, chat have destroyed letter writing: Email inventor


Letter writing may have dwindled substantially over the years but billions of people are participating in the written word
EmailNew Delhi: Letter writing may have dwindled substantially over the years but billions of people are participating in the written word in the electronic form as never before, says the inventor of email V A Shiva Ayyadurai.

“Email has explosively supported the growth of letter writing globally. on tuesday, unlike some decades ago, where penning letters was limited to a few who could afford education, billions are now writing letters, in electronic form, as never before – albeit, we can argue about the quality of writing – but regardless, more people, than ever before, are participating in the written word,” the 50-year-old MIT systems scientist, technologist, entrepreneur and educator said.

In 1978, Ayyadurai invented the world’s first email system at the age of 14 and was awarded the first US copyright for “email”.

He feels people tend to confuse email with the simple exchange of short text messages such as in texting, SMS, chat or Twitter, saying these have “destroyed” letter writing.

“Email is not the simple exchange of text messages. Email is the electronic version of the interoffice mail system used for formal letter or memo communication,” he says.

“Clearly texting, SMS and chat are very different than writing a letter or email. In fact, I believe what is going on is that people are realising that you use short messaging, like texting, SMS, chat, Twitter, etc. for quick informal messages, and you use email for more intimate and formal letter writing.

“In this sense, mail is the preferred medium for “letter writing”, and if anything, texting and chat, are killing ‘letter writing’. Email did precisely what I predicted, back in 1978, it took over the postal mail process and system of writing letters.”

Mumbai-born Ayyadurai has just come out with a book “The Email Revolution: Unleashing the Power to Connect”, published by Allworth Press, in which he demonstrates how organisations can realise the infinite potential of email to strengthen their brands and reach their audiences in incredibly creative ways.

According to the author, email was designed for formal business communication, and as long as we participate in business, email will be here.

When he created the first email, he saw its real value. “The system as a service which could automate all paper-based activities of managing mail in the office environment, by providing features of inbox, outbox, folders, address book, attachments, sorting, archiving, etc. to emulate electronically the interoffice mail system – the email we all use today” says Ayyadurai.

Ayyadurai says he realised that email, if adopted widely, beyond its value economically and productivity-wise, would also have immense social implications.

“This is why I also had stated then that email would change our ‘patterns of communication, attitudes, and styles’. Today, email has become a legal medium, for example, and in business communications, especially, people should be more cognisant of what they put in email communications, for it is far different than informal communications such as texting, chat or SMS,” he says.


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