Spooky! My first email address still exists…

September 8, 2007 at 5:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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When universities first gave out email addresses, they simply applied the same database logic that they used for keeping student files. My first email address thus was:

a2743388@smail1.rrz.uni-koeln.de

Nobody could memorize this, of course. PCMCIA – People can’t memorize computer industry acronyms.

After some time, they got rid of the 1 after smail (which meant: student mail), and a little later they introduced alias which you could pick (and change) as often as you wanted. I remember that Lenina and I chose masculine aliases for a while, simply by deleting the last letter of our first names.

I got my first email address in 1996, and for many years I kept accessing my account via Telnet – an extremely insecure system which sends passwords in plain text. But I quite liked (and still like) the telnet appeal: You have to open a terminal application (on Mac OSX, you’ll find it in the Utilities folder, it is called Terminal) and then send your commands via telnet. As such you read your mail on a remote computer (unlike http, where a copy of a file is sent to you), where you also need to open a special program (at the time it was PINE) to read your mail. Everything on Telnet is entirely text-based.

Just for fun, I just tried to send another email to a2743388@smail1.rrz.uni-koeln.de – the odd thing is that I did NOT get a delivery failure notification. So I figured the account might still be up and tried accessing it via telnet. THAT, however, did not work. If I remember rightly, you’d have to access either via the Uni’s network, or from the network of another university. Too bad….

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  1. I still find the acronym (Pine Is Not Elm) humorous. I cut my email teeth on Pine. Have we entered a period of post-arboreal email clients? At UIC we use Squirrel, which seems related…

  2. That’s right! had completely forgotten that acronym (probably I didn’t know or care what an elm is, back then-)

    Squirrel rings a teeny-tiny bell – is it also on telnet?

  3. I don’t think so. It’s web-based, I believe.


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