Back in November 2011, Time magazine ran an article titled "The Man Who Invented Email."
It was about V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai who, in 1978 as a 14-year-old kid, wrote and copyrighted a program called EMAIL. This article led the Smithsonian to recently acquire various documents related to Ayyadurai's 1978 program, in order to immortalize its contribution to American life and culture. In late February, the Washington Post added to Ayyadurai's growing fame as the creator of email by writing a piece about him titled, "Smithsonian acquires documents from inventor of EMAIL program.'
Ayyadurai in 1980
All this has led to outrage in the tech community, with many people pointing out that Ayyadurai in no way created email. Nor did he even play any kind of significant role in its development.
Sam Biddle has posted a detailed debunking of Ayyadurai's claims
over at gizmodo. He notes that Ayyadurai has been playing up his claim as the inventor of email by registering numerous domains such as InventorOfEmail.com, DrEmail.com, and EmailInventor.com. But, according to Biddle, this is the reality:
Shiva Ayyadurai didn't invent email—he created "EMAIL," an electronic mail system implemented at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, New Jersey. It's doubtful he realized it as a little teen, but laying claim to the name of a product that's the generic term for a universal technology gives you acres of weasel room. But creating a type of airplane named AIRPLANE doesn't make you Wilbur Wright. The actual pioneers of email were breaking new ground more than a decade before Ayyadurai concocted his dental memo system. Electronic mail predates Ayyadurai's ability to spell, let alone code.
Ayyadurai's one legitimate claim to fame is that he may have been the first person to use the abbreviation 'email' in place of 'electronic mail'. Or, at least, an earlier use of the term 'email' hasn't yet been found.