Do you look forward to visiting the mailbox every day? It can be fun to open the door to see what letters, bills, newspapers, magazines, and packages have been left by the delivery person. Chances are, though, that you receive more communications via email than regular or “snail" mail today.

Email is short for electronic mail. Historians believe the first email was sent in 1971 by an engineer named Ray Tomlinson. Up until that time, messages had been limited to other users of the same machine. Tomlinson figured out a way to send messages to other machines via the Internet.

The rest, as they say, is history. As computers became more advanced and commonplace, the allure of sending simple text messages to others via email grew. Gone were the days of waiting for the post office to deliver a handwritten message. Today, people all over the world use the Internet to send billions of emails every single day.

Do you already have an email address? Many kids use email accounts set up for them at their schools. Others may use popular free email clients on the Internet. If you're going to do much on the Internet today, you're going to need an email address, so that others can communicate with you.

Most modern email clients allow you to store email messages indefinitely. You can also categorize them into different folders, so that you can search them and find old messages more quickly. Whereas you might have needed a filing cabinet for handwritten communications in the past, today you only need a couple of clicks to file email in a folder that you can search later.

Decades ago, sharing memories from a summer camp might have gone something like this: you develop pictures you took with a camera and have extra prints made to share with your best friend from camp. After you handwrite a letter, you would include the photos along with your letter in a sealed, stamped envelope. Depending upon where your friend lives, he or she might receive it a few days or a week or more later.

Today, you can take digital photos at camp and attach them to an email to your friend immediately. If your friend has a smartphone, he or she can check email and see the pictures almost instantaneously.

The exact speed of email will depend upon Internet traffic and server load at particular times of the day. In general, however, email delivery can be almost instantaneous under optimal conditions. With vast networks of super-fast fiber optic cables powering the super computers that run the Internet, you can send an email to a friend halfway around the world that they receive within seconds of your sending it!

Wonder What's Next?

Take a ride with Wonderopolis tomorrow as we discover how a certain vehicle got its signature color.