This is what it was like to send an email in 1984

In May 1979 the world's first public viewdata service Prestel was made available to London residents, find out about it's role in the early days of home online services.

Press Association
Last updated: 2 May 2018 - 12.56pm

Want to send an email? All you have to do is pick up your smartphone and bang, it’s done and sent! All in a few minutes, tops.

But rewind over years, and sending electronic mail was uncharted territory… kind of what virtual reality is like for us today. Back in the early 80s, sending emails was one of the most technologically advanced way of general communication, and nothing highlights that more than this clip from Database – a tech show from the 1980s.

[Read more: 10 everyday inventions we can't live without]

And after connecting through the Prestel network to a service called Micronet – a rudimentary version of the world wide web but with numbered webpages instead of urls – you had to look for a specific page for emails (in this case it’s 7776), to type in your message.

On 8th December 1979 Prestel was demonstrated for the first time. Developed by the Post Office and later the Prestel Division of BT, it was a videotext system, a way of receiving information via a television set - much like the online services today.

During the show, Pat Green – one of the computer experts taking the viewers through the process with a helpful demo – says while she finds the mailbox quite exciting, she also uses the PC for other things as well… like “keeping household records, such as what I have in the freezer, and people’s telephone numbers and addresses”.

One thing’s for sure – a lot has changed in the last three decades.

Read more: From the first phone call to the Speaking Clock - how the UK got connected

Visit BT Archives to find out more about BT's role in the UK's communication history 

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