Senatorial hopeful Shiva Ayyadurai claims he invented email, but did he?

Cal Jeffrey

TS Evangelist
Staff member

Shiva Ayyadurai is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate on the 2018 Massachusetts ballot. According to Ars Technica, Ayyadurai announced his intentions about a month ago, but the Federal Elections Commission recently posted his statement of candidacy, showing a filing date of March 17.

However, what is more interesting than Ayyadurai’s senatorial bid, is his claim that he invented email. For decades, the official history of the internet has primarily credited Ray Tomlinson as the inventor of email.

However, the About page of Shiva’s website touts him as being “the inventor of email.”

It goes on to explain that when Shiva Ayyadurai was 14-years-old, he wrote a program for a hospital that emulated “the entire interoffice mail system,” and that he named this program “EMAIL,” for which he was awarded a copyright.

It is worth noting that there is a significant difference between saying, “I invented EMAIL,” and “I invented email.” The former is the name of his computer program, and the latter is a term that has entered the English lexicon as meaning, “messages distributed by electronic means from one computer user to one or more recipients via a network.”

Ars Technica points out that Ray Tomlinson, with the help of others, “created the first network mail system on the ARPANET,” which was in use at least three years before Shiva wrote his email program.

Shiva Ayyadurai dismisses Tomlinson’s system as “a very rudimentary form of text messaging,” and not email.

He is currently suing the blog Techdirt for libel over refuting his claims. Between 2014 and 2016, Techdirt published 14 posts denying that Shiva was the inventor of email. Techdirt’s stance is that Ayyadurai claims are purely false.

“For almost five years now, we've been among those explaining why Shiva Ayyadurai's claim that he invented email is complete bullshit. It's not true. Not even remotely. [His program] was not the first. It was not the last. It was nothing special. Nothing about what Ayyadurrai did was new -- even if he came up with the ideas entirely on his own. Basically every feature that he put in the application was previously discussed on open mailing lists.”

Ayyadurrai $15 million suit against Techdirt is not his first in his defense of his claim. According to Fortune, Shiva filed a similar lawsuit against Gawker. The suit was never heard by a judge since Gawker decided to settle out of court for $750,000 and agreed to take the article down.

Techdirt is not going down so easily. It believes that its defense is grounded in fact, not libel, and is supported by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

Currently, the blog’s legal counsel has submitted a motion to have the lawsuit “lawsuit thrown out on anti-SLAPP grounds, because this is a strategic lawsuit designed to chill our exercise of First Amendment rights.”

Meanwhile, the blog has been selling merchandise and has set up the “Techdirt Survival Fund” at to help pay for its mounting legal expenses. There have been no estimates on how long the case will be tied up in the courts.

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Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
eMail existed on the old U of L computer terminals in the early 70's when there was a system between Universities. Long before any kind of graphic terminals or the actual "internet". Interesting he did not mention a copywrite date in the article. Primarily for research sharing it had very limited message capabilities but it did have the ability to address it to another individual, by name, date and by service somewhat similar to the old TTY systems ...... and besides, according to Al Gore, HE invented the internet so case solved! LOL
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Squid Surprise

TS Evangelist
Shiva's copyright is dated 1978.... Since Tomlinson was sending email in the early 70s (1971 I think - someone correct me if I've got the wrong year - eyes hurt too much right now to look it up), I think it's pretty obvious he's wrong...

Saying that, writing any sort of email program when you're 14 is a pretty impressive accomplishment...

By the way, I believe I invented the word "Squoit" and "Kersquoit"....Someone should be putting me into the Smithsonian :)
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TS Evangelist
He's a Republican, running in Massachusetts, against Elizabeth Warren. Never mind her popularity elsewhere, she is extremely popular in her home state - which was also the only state to go entirely Blue in 2016.

I think it is safe to say that Shiva Ayyadurai has already lost.