20th century email newsletters

I kept meaning to look back at some of the email newsletters I used to subscribe to in the 1990s and, with Dan Hon and Laura E. Hall’s Internet of Newsletters appearing today, I thought I should get it done.

So, here are some of the newsletters I subscribed to, back when I was happy to get more and more email, when it didn’t feel like a medium for generating tasks, which it does to me now.


From Carl Steadman, I have three emails (1.06, 1.07 and 1.08) from 1998. Carl’s site of the period is still live although the newsletter archive doesn’t work. I’m not sure how long it ran for. Here’s a taster:

Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 15:32:15 -0700 (PDT)
From: Carl Steadman <carl@freedonia.com>
Subject: <carl> 1.06: Time for Carlmail! Time for Carlmail!

Comrades! You, too, can stalwartly refuse to be culturally relevant!


Over the weekend, Carlmail died a horrible death. It happened suddenly,
without warning. Carlmail was no more.

And yet you're getting this mail right now! How can this be? Well, you
see, I have backups. Do you have backups? I have backups.

So if you haven't backed up your valuable data lately, do so now! You'll
thank me for it, later. This has been a public service announcement from
your pal, Carl.



I know, you didn't need to hear it from me, but maybe Mike Homer does.

You see, both Netmoguls and Placing were linked from the Netscape
Netcenter What's Cool page a little over a week ago.

And, based on my referrer logs, Netcenter is delivering double-digit
hits. As in, less than 100 unique visitors. From a page that's linked
right off the Netscape.com homepage.

My ass is a bigger portal.



Dave Winer published his DaveNet email newsletter from 1994 to 2004, although my only copies are from 1999. Maybe that was enough. Here’s a taste from one of them:

Date: Wed, 09 Jun 1999 14:15:29 GMT
From: dave@scripting.com (DaveNet email)
To: "DaveNet World" <davenet-world@scripting.com>
Subject: Byte and the Merc

From Scripting News... It's DaveNet! 
Released on 6/9/99; 7:15:26 AM PST

 ***Office and Jakob

 Lots of mail from yesterday's piece about Microsoft Office 2000.

 I also met with usability pundit Jakob Nielsen to demo our new 
 software, and to schmooze about the web, the industry and where all 
 this stuff is going. I like Jakob. We have rapport. I suggested we do a 
 radio show together. What do you think?

 Jakob said many interesting and provocative things. Like this one. 
 "If you're an Internet user you have to have Office."

 "Why?" I asked. "You have to have Office because you'll get Word 
 documents or Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoint presentations as 
 email enclosures, and how will you read them if you don't have the apps 
 that created them?" he asked.

 I knew that! So, far from a last gasp it seems like these apps are here to 
 stay. Maybe the web is smaller than Microsoft? Maybe it is, and I don't 
 like it. I want the web and the world to be much much larger.

 So, in the spirit of Linus, "I don't care, we'll just keep making our 
 software better."


I don’t know much about this, but I subscribed for nearly five years from late 1995. If I remember rightly it was a good way to get general tech news, when we were less well provided for by blogs, news sites, etc. Initially produced by Educom (“Transforming Education Through Information Technology”) who merged with Cause to create Educause in 1998. From the first issue I have:

Date: Tue, 28 Nov 1995 20:09:05 -0500 (EST)
From: Educom <educom@elanor.oit.unc.edu>
To: "EDUCOM Edupage Mailing List" <edupage@elanor.oit.unc.edu>
Subject: Edupage, 28 November 1995

Edupage, 28 Nov 95.  Edupage, a summary of news items on information
technology, is provided three times each week as a service by Educom,
a Washington, D.C.-based consortium of leading colleges and universities
seeking to transform education through the use of information technology.

        Kahn Steps Down At Borland
        Windows 95 Boosts Productivity
        Markey Wins On V-Chip
        Netcom May Be Liable In Copyright Suit
        Spamming Sparks Lawsuit
        PC Radio Days
        Cray Flips Over Teraflops 
        Network Security Moves To Front Burner

        ITU Expected To Approve 33.6 Kbps Modems
        Online Anonymity Is All Relative
        NEC PC Marketed To Game Players
        Cybercomics From Tom Clancy
        A Free Market Approach To E-Mail
        Crusade Against Cyberporn

Borland International's original "Bad Boy" Philippe Kahn is resigning Jan. 1
as chairman of the board.  Kahn says he wants to spend more time with his
new venture, Starfish Software, which is planning to develop products that
will use Sun Microsystems' Java software to enable PC users to coordinate
their personal schedules over the Web.  "Starfish has grown much faster than
we ever dreamed it would.  There are only so many hours in the day, and
being the chairman of a publicly held company is a lot of commitment," says
Kahn.  (Wall Street Journal 24 Nov 95 B3)

A test conducted by International Data Corp. shows Windows 95 users were
able to complete a series of business computing tasks 19% faster than Mac
users and 50% faster than OS/2 users.  The tasks included managing and
printing local and networked files, managing documents and software
programs, checking system resources, creating shortcuts and customizing the
desktop.  (Investor's Business Daily 27 Nov 95 A6)

The Industry Standard Intelligencer

The email newsletter of the Industry Standard print magazine that was around from 1998 to 2001. I appear to have subscribed to the emails from February 1998 to October 1999. Here’s the start of the first I have:

Date: Fri, 20 Feb 1998 19:19:32 -0800
From: frontdesk@thestandard.net
Subject: The Industry Standard Intelligencer v1.4


February 20, 1998


     *TED Goes Big
     *Can NCI Stir with a Roux Sauce?
     *News in Review

     *Win98 Update
     *Ads auf Deutsch
     *Subscriptions Slated

     *Participate in an International Data Corp. (IDC) Survey


TED Goes Big

Richard Saul Wurman likes to describe his TED (technology, entertainment,
design) conference as the ultimate dinner party, and as the eighth edition
of the event opened Thursday at the Monterey, California, Conference
Center, that description seemed apt. There was a little bit of traditional
business conference fare--earnest executives opining about the future of
the Internet, computer innovators showing whizzy new graphics and speech
recognition technology--but mostly there was entertainment: music and movie
clips and stand-up comedy, along with a great collection of door prizes and
plenty of time for schmoozing. Forrest Sawyer told war stories about Iraq,
a historian of magic revealed some secrets, and a young woman named Aimee
Mullins stole the first day of the show with a blunt and cheerful
discussion of what it's like to be a competitive sprinter without any legs.
Day 2 began with some spectacular scientific presentations that took the
audience to the bottom of the sea and the farthest reaches of outer spa

All very diverting, no doubt, but an obvious question remains: Why do
people pay $2,500, plus lodging, for an elaborate variety show? Part of the
answer is that they can; there's nothing quite like hearing about
fascinating creative endeavors from the creators themselves. Even more
important, though, is that TED is an opportunity to rub elbows with
interesting luminaries from a variety of fields and become a part of
Wurman's elite circle of late-twentieth-century business and culture
industry movers. Traditionally, not just anyone could attend TED. Space was
limited, and even the press had to pay.

But Wurman faces a tricky balancing act in holding this all together. TED
Conferences Inc. is getting bigger--there are close to 800 attendees in
Monterey this year, many in "simulcast" rooms that offer a video feed from
the main auditorium. Last fall, there was a new TED show in New York, and
later this year is the second TEDMED show, focusing on "wellness."
Exclusivity is part of what gives TED its cachet, but that's hard to square
with the desire to grow. Wurman says, for example, that he doesn't need
press. Yet he's hired Alexander Communications, the ubiquitous high-tech PR
firm, to manage the story and a few journalists were quietly given free
tickets to the Monterey show this year, to the great irritation of some of
their brethren. This reporter was among those who got in because their
publications were sponsors; other scribes were comped because they were
speakers. The tension between elite clubbiness and expansion isn't a new
issue at the high end of the burgeoning conference business, but it's a
growing one for TED.

NTK now

NTK’s weekly UK-oriented internet news/satire/in-jokes ran from 1997 to 2007, just about, and can currently be enjoyed as repeats with an added comment. The original site is still online, although it looks like the archive is missing with its complete archive. From one of the first issues:

Date: Fri, 23 May 1997 13:33:08 +0100
From: Need To Knowbot <ntknow@spesh.com>
To: ntknowers@spesh.com
Subject: NTK 23/05/97

 _   _ _____ _  __               23/05/97       NEED TO KNOW NOW
| \ | |_   _| |/ /   _ __   _____      __ o tries to be the premier
|  \| | | | | ' /   | '_ \ / _ \ \ /\ / / o source of UK data on the
| |\  | | | | . \   | | | | (_) \ V  V /  o infotyphoon sweeping us all:
|_| \_| |_| |_|\_\  |_| |_|\___/ \_/\_/   o         IT FAILS!

         "I wrote PGP for human rights!"
                                  - PHIL ZIMMERMANN, London, 19/5/97

         "The Chaos Computer Club's credit hacking program is a
         crime against humanity!"
                                       - KIM POLESE, Oxford, 19/5/97

                        old net, new net: slight differences evident

                               >> HARD NEWS <<
                              bitter aftertaste

         NETSCAPE inched back ahead of MICROSOFT this week by
         releasing a beta of NETCASTER - software that lets Netscape
         users subscribe to (stop me if you've heard this) "channels
         of information that appear on your desktop". Similar push
         media support is due in the final version of Microsoft's
         Internet Explorer 4.0 - but that's not out yet. Netscape's
         standard for creating the new channels is also closer to
         standard HTML programming than Microsoft's planned CDF
         format. Hoorah for the plucky underdog of a $3 billion
         software company!

         The BBC announced THE BEEB, an online consumer service
         produced with ICL Fujitsu. The service will initially
         consist of a set of branded sites (like www.topgear.com),
         with an Internet access package a possibility later in the
         year (like when people work out how to make money out of
         it). The service is funded by ICL, rather than the license
         fee. Software will be available for the BBC Model 'B' only.
         That's our little joke.

Seidman’s Online Insider

I always think about this one when I think about 1990s email newsletters. One minute of Googling doesn’t reveal exactly who he was or is or what happened to him. Anyone? His website, no longer existing, was last updated in 2000. His weeklyish emails were full of the latest news and his thoughts about America Online, CompuServe, MSN, phone companies, etc. I remember it being great stuff, and appear to have subscribed from 1995 to 1999.

Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 00:20:44 -0500
From: "Robert D. Seidman" <robert@clark.net>
Subject: Seidman's Online Insider, December 10, 1995
To: Multiple recipients of list ONLINE-L<ONLINE-L@PEACH.EASE.LSOFT.COM>

                         Seidman's Online Insider
      Weekly Summary of  Major Online Services and Internet Events
Vol. 2 No. 47  (Formerly known as In, Around and Online)  December 10, 1995

Copyright (C) 1995 Robert Seidman (robert@clark.net).  All rights
reserved.  May be reproduced in any medium for non-commercial purposes.

-Web Wars
-MSN is Here to Stay
-Web Wars Miss the Point, Says AOL Chief
-This is MNNN?
-MSN's Loss is Prodigy's Gain?
-Stock Watch
-Subscription Info

Web Wars
A long, long time ago...

(it really works better if you play the theme music in your head.)

*Java Power for the People*

Netscape and Sun Microsystems jointly announced JavaScript, an object
scripting tool for Sun's Java.  JavaScript will facilitate the
development of online Java applications for the web by allowing creators
of Web sites to take advantage of Sun's Java programming language without
an intimate knowledge of Java.  A slew of industry leaders ranging from
America Online to Oracle announce plans to adopt JavaScript.  It's hailed
by industry leaders (but mostly by Netscape and Sun) for being a
cross-industry open standard.

*Sleeping Giant?*

For a few weeks it has been known that Microsoft planned to announce
their Internet strategy on December 7 (Pearl Harbor Day).  The
announcements, while on the surface may not seem earth shattering, the
basic premise of the meeting, even espoused by Bill Gates is that the
"sleeping giant has awakened".  The announcements and demos coming from
the Internet Strategy workshop were clearly a missile pointed directly at
Netscape, and to some degree America Online.

But for all of the news that came out of Redmond this week, what does it
all mean?   I don't think we'll know for a while.


I’d forgotten Keith Dawson’s TBTF (Tasty Bits from the Technology Front), the website for which is still online, including the archive of the newsletter which ran during the late 1990s. This was another great source of news. All this makes me realise how, before blogs and RSS, email was the main way I got good summaries of (what seemed like) the important stuff. Keith’s still active online, and here’s a brief sample of TBTF:

Date: Sat, 28 Feb 1998 22:22:18 -0600
From: dawson@world.std.com (Keith Dawson)
To: tbtf@tbtf.com
Subject: TBTF for 3/2/98: Light work


TBTF for 3/2/98: Light work

    T a s t y   B i t s   f r o m   t h e   T e c h n o l o g y   F r o n t

    Timely news of the bellwethers in computer and communications
    technology that will affect electronic commerce -- since 1994

    Your Host: Keith Dawson

    This issue: < http://www.tbtf.com/archive/03-02-98.html >

C o n t e n t s

    Internet Council of Registrars burgled
    Sun and Microsoft meet in court over Java
    Throw down your crutches and encrypt
      Netscape crypto easily boosted to full strength
      HP's VerSecure
    Many hands make light work
    ISPs, hosts, and CSPs
    Teledesic puts up a test bird
    Iridium puts on a light show
    Another new Mersenne prime
    Israelis demonstrate a tunable quantum observer
    An operating system popularity meter
    Auckland in the dark

..Internet Council of Registrars burgled

  Why *those* two servers, exactly?

    This news is not exactly new, but the news may be that it has at-
    tracted so little notice. On Sunday 2/15, thieves broke into a Best
    Internet San Francisco co-location facility, cut a lock off a steel
    cage, and made off with two 200-pound servers being used to test the
    Shared Registry System [1] for the Internet Council of Registrars.
    CORE is nearly ready to go live with its long-debated evolution of
    the domain name system, in contrast to the US government's "green
    paper" solution [2], which is months from approval and probably
    years from implementation. According to a c|net account [3], CORE
    said its servers were stolen when a CORE worker scheduled to be at
    the facility called in sick. There was no sign of forced entry into
    the Best facility. The two Sun Enterprise 450 servers were not the
    most expensive equipment in the facility, but no other cages were
    disturbed. Local police are working on the case and the FBI and
    CERT were notified. Emergent Corp., which is contracted by CORE to
    operate the SRS, had the system back online on new servers within
    30 hours. At the time of the burglary CORE was low-key and sought
    to dampen speculation. They promised to put up a statement on their
    Web site, but if they've done so I couldn't find it.

    [1]  http://www.gtld-mou.org/press/core-2.html
    [2]  http://www.tbtf.com/archive/02-02-98.html#s01
    [3]  http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,19220,00.html?pfv


These folk are not only still active but still publishing a weekly email newsletter of Mac news, tips, etc alongside everything else they do. They’ve been going 23 years, and I subscribed to their newsletter at issue #300 in 1995, leaving in 1999. It was invaluable stuff in the darker days of Mac owning.

Date: Tue, 16 Jan 1996 00:18:41 -0800
From: TidBITS Editors <editors@tidbits.com>
To: Multiple recipients of list TIDBITS <TIDBITS@RICEVM1.RICE.EDU>
Subject: TidBITS#310/15-Jan-96 1/2


This week we bring you news from the Macworld Expo in San
   Francisco, including an extensive overview of Web-related
   products at the show, plus our annual superlatives collection of
   the show's best and worst. Also, check out the latest on turmoil
   at Apple, a complete system update for 5300-series PowerBooks,
   and forthcoming Macintosh models. Finally, we sadly say goodbye
   to Robert Hess, one of the Macintosh industry's best known and
   most respected journalists.

This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
* APS Technologies -- 800/443-4199 -- <sales@apstech.com>
   Makers of hard drives, tape drives, and neat SCSI accessories.
   For APS price lists, email: <aps-prices@tidbits.com>
* Northwest Nexus -- 206/455-3505 -- http://www.halcyon.com/
   Providing access to the global Internet. <info@halcyon.com>
* Hayden Books, an imprint of Macmillan Computer Publishing
   Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh, Third Edition online!
   Mac Tip of the Day & free books! -- http://www.mcp.com/hayden/
* Power Computing -- 800/375-7693 -- <info@powercc.com>
   Now shipping... The Award-Winning MacOS Compatibles!
   See what the press says! http://www.powercc.com/News/quotes.html
* America Online -- 800/827-6364 -- http://www.aol.com
   The world's largest provider of online services.
   Give Back to the Net -- http://www.aol.com/give/
* DealBITS: Short but sweet because of Macworld Expo <-------- NEW
   http://king.tidbits.com/dealbits/ -- <dealbits@tidbits.com>

Copyright 1990-1995 Adam & Tonya Engst. Details at end of issue.
   Information: <info@tidbits.com> Comments: <editors@tidbits.com>

    Goodbye Robert
    Macworld SF 96 Superlatives
    Light at the End of the Tunnel: Web and HTML at the Expo



**Turmoil at Apple** -- Apple announced last week it expects to
  report a $68 million loss for its first fiscal quarter this year,
  despite growing unit shipments and revenues. Apple claims price
  wars in the personal computer market (particularly in Japan)
  resulted in sales and margins below internal projections. As if
  this weren't enough, Apple bid farewell to no less than five vice
  presidents in an executive-level shake-up and reorganization,
  which added to rumors CEO Michael Spindler's days may be numbered.

And that’s it from the archives. I also came across a few early 2000s newsletters which already seem remarkably old (Popbitch! Politech! Gorjuss!), but that’s enough for now. And if that’s whetted your appetite, go to Internet of Newsletters and subscribe to some 21st century email.

Commenting is disabled on posts once they’re 30 days old.

8 Apr 2014 at Twitter

  • 8:14pm: @mala Ah, sorry about that. Fixing it now. Do you know what became of Richard Seidman?
  • 7:36pm: @mala I assumed it was a temporary glitch. Meant to ping you but forgot by the time I'd finished!
  • 7:35pm: @textfiles Let me know if I can do anything.
  • 7:35pm: @blech It'll be interesting to see how effective that is on, say, London Wall or Beech Street.
  • 7:29pm: @holgate Yeah, I restricted myself to one-to-many email things, rather than discussion. So many short-lived ideas I had carefully filtered.
  • 7:13pm: Which also made me wonder if there is/should be somewhere that has archives of email newsletters (archive.org?) cc @textfiles
  • 7:09pm: I wrote about some of the email newsletters I subscribed to in the 1990s: gyford.com/phil/writing/2… Which only might interest some of you.
  • 4:54pm: @paulpod I saw lots of people alluding to having to stand by, but nothing alluding to whatever the announcement was/is/will be…
  • 4:49pm: @mattsheret I would also like to register my disappointment at the lack of warning. I wonder what all these people are *for* sometimes!
  • 2:23pm: @mutber @paulpod It’s fine! He says he’s doing a project in Los Angeles that has social housing. I’m sure that’ll help.
  • 1:44pm: @benhammersley Also to be occasionally known as "Strategy&amp;".
  • 10:08am: @frankieroberto I haven’t I’m afraid. I did read reviews of both before going for Acorn, but that was several years ago.
  • 9:48am: Ha, when will Maria Miller resign, on Doodle: doodle.com/ughx8f3qz3q92d…
  • 9:07am: @ntlk @ModelViewMedia Wired? Oh ha ha ha ha ha ha my aching sides oh dear oh my ha ha ha ha so funny ha ha can’t breathe ha ha Wired?! ha ha
  • 9:06am: Ooh, Acorn, the nice Mac image-editing software, is on sale: $14.99 instead of $49.99. flyingmeat.com/acorn/ Worth it if PS is too spendy.
  • 7:37am: @vineet Yes, but they're not (yet) turning off their existing service.

8 Apr 2014 in Links