Ep 7. Meet the Inventor of Email – “Innovation Can Happen Anywhere”
Dr. Shiva was born in Bombay, India. As a child he was fascinated by spending time with his grandma who was a “healer”. Her ability to heal people made an impact on him and this was something he wanted to become as he grew up.
As a young boy he and his family immigrated to the United States and settled in New Jersey. By the time we was 14 years old, he had already completed all the math classes required for high school, so he was accepted into a special program at the New York University Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences to learn computer sciences. He finished in the top of his class, wanted to drop out of school, but a professor of his convinced him to work on another project…converting the Interoffice Mail System to an electronic version. On August 30th of that year, Dr. Shiva succeeded in creating the first electronic version of the interoffice mail system which he named EMAIL, at the age of 14.
This created an entirely new way of working. People had been used to dealing with hard paper documents. Making the shift from writing to typing required a change in habits. Dr. Shiva realized there were three things he had to do to overcome this:
- It had to be easy to us
- It had to be reliable
- It had to be fast and have all the features they were used to (inbox, outbox, carbon copy), that way when they logged into email all the features were recognizable
Dr. Shiva never sought fame or fortune from the creation of email. At the time, it was an assignment from a professor of his. I asked him where he saw this going. He tells the story of how he was entering a contest and had to write an essay describing where he thought the technology would go in the future. “one day electronic mail, like Edison’s bulb, will permeate our lives. Its practical applications are unlimited. Not only is mail sent electronically as many telexes and teletypes are capable of doing but it offers a computational service that automates a secretary or file clerks work of writing or memorandum, document or letter, editing, filing, and retrieving. If electronic mail systems become a reality, they will surely create different patters of communication, attitudes, and styles. Volumes of written work, for example, shall become obsolete”. He was 16 when he wrote this. That essay now lives in the Smithsonian.
There is a narrative that innovation can only take place in a place of higher learning. To help correct this, Dr. Shiva formed Innovation Corps, which is a movement that develops innovative thinking and entrepreneurship among high school students in inner cities and villages across the globe, with the support of local philanthropists, professionals and businesses.