I’ve been attacking email systems this week. I’ve been helping to transfer email from the Nottingham exchange server upto Newcastle. The process has not gone easily. I think that the problem is that university IT departments think mostly about their current users, rather than users coming or going elsewhere. To me this is a real problem: for an academic, their correspondence is an essential ingredient of the historical record, their knowledge of what they have done.

Spurred on by this, I decided to recover all of my mail from the archives where I have kept it, and place it into my current email system. This is made easier for me because I have used Emacs for pretty much my entire time on a computer; I remember a DOS based application before that. I’ve moved from RMAIL to Gnus, but that is it. Gnus uses an one message per file, text based format. It’s pretty future proof; I suspect in 2000 years, when people look back they will assume that everyone used Gnus and similar applications, as all the PST files will be unreadable. There’s a big gap in the middle of my email for 6 months after I got to Newcastle, when I had used Outlook. A pity.

My total collection of email is 1.4G in size — I’ve been reasonably careful about dumping 100M attachments over the years. The earliest email sent by me talking about SET domains in a Drosophila gene. The oldest email I can find sent to me comes from 1994. It’s from a nice bloke I remember meeting on one of the guitar boards, called Paul R. Leach. At that time he was at Colorado. He was kind enough to send me some Herco Flex 50s from the US. These are guitar plectrums that seem to have disappeared from the market at the time. I think I still have a few of them left. Thanks Paul! An act of generosity, that I now remember 13 years later. The internet was a kinder place in those days.

Originally published on my old blog site.