You likely spend your days crafting, answering, and sending emails, but do you know the history behind email? While it is relatively short in length, email’s history has dramatically changed over the years and has greatly impacted the way we communicate on a day to day basis.

Test your email history knowledge and see if you can score a 10/10 on this quiz.

1. When was the first email sent? 

A. 1971

B. 1980

C. 1991

D. 1999

Answer: In 1971, the first email was sent by a computer engineer working on Arpanet, the U.S. Department of Defense system at the time that would eventually become the framework for the Internet.

2. Who sent the first email?

A. Steve Jobs

B. Gary Thuerk

C. Ray Tomlinson

D. Bill Gates

Answer: Ray Tomilson created a system to send messages between computers using the @ symbol to identify addresses. The use of the @ symbol is probably the most enduring part of his creation.

3. When was the first promotional email sent?

A. 1971

B. 1975

C. 1978

D. 1983

Answer: Marketer, Gary Thuerk, sent an email in 1978 advertising DEC machines to a few hundred recipients on the Arpanet, creating $13 million in sales. Unfortunately, the novelty of the email has worn off over the years, making it frowned upon (and no longer lucrative) to send emails that your recipients did not sign up to receive. Here’s why you shouldn’t email customers without their consent.

4. Which email service provider first made email available for free to the public?

A. Hotmail

B. AOL

C. Prodigy

D. Yahoo!

Answer: Hotmail. Prior to the creation of the Internet in 1991, email was only used by corporations and universities. Personal addresses did not become available until Hotmail offered a free web-based email service in 1996.

5. What was the first phone to include email?

A. Blackberry 5810

B. iPhone 2G

C. Motorola Razr V3

D. IBM Simon

Answer: While the IBM Simon may not have all the bells and whistles of today’s phones, this phone, sold in 1994, was the first to send faxes and emails on a touch screen. Luckily for us, smartphones have improved greatly over the years, and with these improvements, we’ve needed to design emails that look great on our mobile devices. For tips on designing emails for mobile, read our article, How to Optimize Your Email for Mobile.

6. When was the option to opt-out first included in emails?

A. 1978

B. 1986

C. 1998

D. 2000

Answer: In 1998, the UK updated the Data Protection Act, and for email senders this meant that the ability to opt-out was required for all emails. Learn about opt-out (or unsubscribe) best practices here.

7. When did the spam button arrive?  

A. 1975

B. 1987

C. 1992

D. 2003

Answer: Due to the rise of unwanted promotional email, the CAN-SPAM Act was introduced in 2003, creating regulations around commercial email sending, which led to the spam button. Read on for more information on CAN-SPAM.

8. When did email service providers start giving recipient feedback (or spam complaints) to senders?

A. 1998

B. 2001

C. 2004

D. 2007

Answer: In 2004, AOL was the first to provide recipient feedback with Hotmail and Yahoo not far behind. Marketers could now look at metrics like their spam complaint rate to see if their recipients are responding well to their emails. Are your emails going to spam? Ensure your emails stay out of spam with these tips.

9. What privacy law was enacted in 2018?

A. CAN-SPAM

B. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

C. Data Privacy Act

D. Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

Answer: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) protects the data and privacy of individuals in the EU and EAA. Learn more about GDPR and how to comply.

10. How many email users were there in 2018?

A. 1.5 billion

B. 2.7 billion

C. 3.8 billion

D. 5.2 billion

Answer: 3.8 billion. From only a few hundred users on Arpanet to a vast network that has influenced the way we communicate, email has made leaps and bounds of improvement over the last 50 years. For a look forward, rather than backward, take a look at 3 email trends that will influence 2019 sending.

Now that you’ve mastered the history of email, are you ready for your next challenge? Try improving your email deliverability with our 2019 Email Deliverability Guide. Making sure your emails are delivered to your recipients’ inboxes and not going to the spam folder is key to having a successful email program.



Julie Griffin
Julie is the content marketing associate at SendGrid, helping to write and edit the blog, as well as enhance SendGrid’s SEO efforts. When she isn’t at the office, you’ll find her buzzing around Denver’s coffee shops, breweries, and yoga studios.