That’s Her Majesty in the photo above, and if the year isn’t immediately obvious from the computer terminal she’s typing on — or from her attire — you can find it on the wall, just to her left, printed on one of the signs trumpeting the arrival of the ARPANET.
The date was March 26, 1976, and the ARPANET — the computer network that eventually morphed into the internet — had just come to the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment, a telecommunications research center in Malvern, England. The Queen was on hand to christen the connection, and in the process, she became one of the first heads of state to send an e-mail.
It was Peter Kirstein who set up her mail account, choosing the username “HME2.” That’s Her Majesty, Elizabeth II. “All she had to do was press a couple of buttons,” he remembers, “and her message was sent.”
Kirstein’s role in the first royal e-mail was only appropriate. He’s also the man who first brought the ARPANET to Great Britain, setting up a network node at the University of London in 1973. Throughout the ’70s and on into the ’80s, he would oversee Britain’s presence on ARPANET and help push this sprawling research network onto the all-important TCP/IP protocols that gave rise to the worldwide internet as we know it today.
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