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toniheading on 2012-03-19Shiva Ayyadurai, pictured above, is a shimmering intellectual. He holds four degrees from MIT (where he lectures), numerous patents, honors, and awards. He also says he invented email, and there's a global conspiracy against him. Guess which one of these statements is true.
In 1978, a precocious 14-year-old from New Jersey invented email. You can see him doing it in the photo at the top right of your screen—the kid glued to his monitor. In that picture, he's busy showing off his creation—a way for office staff to message each other via computer. As he's happy to gab to the Washington Post, which recently ran a profile of him, Ayyadurai was a teen wonder who invented the electronic messaging system with which we all communicate, back in 1978. Ayyadurai's collection of "historical documents" is now to be interred at the Smithsonian, the Post reported, laid gloriously on the pillar of American history alongside artifacts of Occidental Civilzation such as Dizzy Gillespie's trumpet, Thomas Jefferson's Bible, and a 1903 Winton, "the first car driven across the United States." Ayyadurai is about to become more than just a gifted programmer and Professional Smart Man, but a historical figure. All of this leading up to a plum book deal with Norton, proclaiming his place in history as the upstart inventor of email itself.
But why have you never heard of him? Probably because there's precious little evidence that Ayyadurai came remotely close to inventing email, beyond a few misleading childhood documents and a US Copyright form of dubious weight. This was enough to convince the Washington Post and Smithsonian? Before you could even finish the Post's ode, Emi Kolawole, the reporter behind the piece, issued a stumbling correction:
A number of readers have accurately pointed out that electronic messaging predates V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai's work in 1978. However, Ayyadurai holds the copyright to the computer program called"email," establishing him as the creator of the