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We use it everyday and don’t put much thought into where it came from, or how it came about: e-mail (electronic mail). On Thursday Shiva Ayyadurai’s name and his 1978 invention documentation and the associated copyright were placed into the Smithsonian permanent collection. Ayyadurai, 14 years old at the time, was the brainchild of the first “bcc,” “cc,” “to” and “from” fields.

“My mom just passed away. So, it was unfortunate she wasn’t there,” said Ayyadurai during an interview at the Washington Post Thursday afternoon. “She represented for me a woman who came from very, very meager backgrounds — struggled to come here and then become a mathematician herself at a time when women weren’t supposed to get an education and work at a university as a systems analyst.”

Ayyadurai also wrote about the U.S. Postal Service’s decline and how they should have embraced e-mail years ago. Nonetheless, e-mail has become the largest and fastest way of communication, aside from Texting, and can even be used in court cases.

Ayyadurai recounted how a family friend who had heard of MIT recommended that he apply. Reluctant, Ayyadurai filled out his application in pencil, with the family friend standing over his shoulder to make sure he finished.

“I didn’t even know about MIT until two weeks before I applied,” said Ayyadurai.

When he arrived he entered an environment still shadowed by racism. It was the beginning of the Reagan Administration, and the campus, like the rest of the nation, was still struggling to integrate. And there was another problem: “The people there didn’t seem very happy,” said Ayyadurai.

Full The Washington Post story





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