This is one of the most fascinating stories you’ll read. Erroll Morris, the director of (among other films) the Stephen Hawking documentary “A Brief History of Time”, talks about his brother Noel, and how Noel and Tom Van Vleck created the original MAIL command for the MIT CTSS. From the article in the New York Times:
It was a short comment on my recent essay in The Times, “The Ashtray.”
#82: Tom Van Vleck
Ocean City, NJ
March 11th, 2011
…I had email today from another middle school student asking about Noel Morris’s place in history as (a) creator of electronic mail.
Noel Morris’s place in history? Noel Morris was my older brother, who had dropped out of MIT and spent most of his waking hours holed up in an apartment working at a computer terminal. This was in the ‘60s, long before there was anything close to a home computer. The name Tom Van Vleck was not unfamiliar. He was a friend of my brother’s who worked with him at MIT in those days.
He proceeds to talk to Tom and a number of other people, trying to uncover the story of how it all began. This is the first part of a 5 part series. Check it out.
You can also read more about this at Tom Van Vleck’s web page, which is thoroughly engaging in its own right.