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Sparrows, cryonics and progressive rock: facts about email-newsletters

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What is an email newsletter? Is it a way for online shops to earn additional revenue by sending obtrusive advertisements? Or is it a tool that helps spammers find nitwits? Though it isn’t immediately obvious, e-newsletters have a very long history and have contributed greatly not only to the world’s history, but to specific fields of human interaction, like science, culture, and entertainment.

We have gathered a small selection of interesting facts about email newsletters to help you understand that this way of transmitting information is more than just an announcement of sales and clearances. E-newsletters have existed for a very long time, at least in areas with an Internet connection.

Email newsletters and electronic music


The term intelligent dance music (IDM) was used for the first time in email-newsletter «IDM list» in 1993.

IDM was any kind of electronic beat-oriented music that was mostly too “out there” to actually dance to. (Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Autechre). The first message, sent on August 1, 1993, was entitled “Can Dumb People Enjoy IDM, Too?”

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Email newsletters and punks

The community of cypherpunks was created based on the e-newsletter of the 80’s. It was dedicated to cryptography, security and information privacy.

The access to the cypherpunk mailing list was granted ony to those who received an invitation. Cypherpunks were an informal group of people, interested in preserving anonymity and cryptography.

One of the well-known cypherpunks is Julian Paul Assange, the editor-in-chief of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

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Email newsletters and computer security


The biggest community dedicated to computer bugs, security, and vulnerabilities was created based on the “Bugtraq” electronic list in 1993.

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This community is entirely devoted to tracking vulnerabilities of networks and software bugs and eliminating them. The members of this community fought for elimination of errors in computer software, and very often, instead of the producers themselves.

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Email newsletters and women in computing

One of the oldest and biggest email lists dedicated to women in computer science was created in 1987.

This newsletter brings together women who have dedicated their lives to computer technology.

According to founder Anita Borg, the Syster community strives to increase the number of women in computer science and improve work environments for women. The name is a combination of “systems” and “sisters”.

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Email newsletters and progressive rock


“Gibraltar” started in 1991 as a moderated electronic mailing list, devoted to presenting news and reviews from the world of progressive rock.

Thanks to this email newsletter, progressive rock fans could get comprehensive information about artists and take part in discussions on topics relating to this kind of music.

They also had access to an exhaustive encyclopedia of progressive rock.

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Email newsletters and Apple


Established in 1984 as an electronic mailing list, Info-Mac is notable for being the first online community for Apple’s then-new Macintosh computer. Info-Mac was the dominant community-based, online support resource for Mac OS software throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

Thanks to this mailing list, owners of Apple products had the opportunity to exchange valuable information about the use and operation of Macintosh computers. The users could get personal help if they had any problems operating their equipment.

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Email newsletters and poetry


Poems of the famous game developer, Dave Grossman, became known to the public through his mailing list.

Only a few know, that a man who wrote and programmed The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge also created a mailing list with his poems. It is called the “Poem of the week” and is a striking example that a person with good imagination can become successful in any field. Dave also published a book of poems dedicated to different aspects of male life, including inability to dance, old stuff in the fridge, and unwillingness to clean anything.

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Email newsletters and bird nerds


The Bugun Liocichla (Liocichla bugunorum), a passerine bird species from the Leiothrichidae family, was first mentioned in a 1996 posting to “Nathistory-India,” an electronic mailing list.

It took 10 years for the species to be formally described.

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Email newsletters and philosophy


In 1992, Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, established an e-newsletter devoted to objectivist philosophy.

Ayn Rand, the developer of objectivist philosophy, covers its principles and ideas in her books “Atlas Shrugged” and “Source,” which are considered very influential in world literature. Rand’s books inspired Wales to create his newsletter, “Moderated Discussion of Objectivist Philosophy”.

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Email newsletters and cryonics

On July 24, 1988, a computer science Ph.D. named Kevin Brown started an electronic mailing list called “CryoNet,” which became a powerful communication tool for the cryonics community.

Although there were other mailing lists and web forums for discussing cryonics, CryoNet remained a central point of contact for cryonicists until it was shut down in 2011.

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Written by: Eugenia Bondarenko