AppleLink sends first emails from space


Here’s a bit of trivia for your next cocktail party or Zoom happy hour: The first email sent from outer space was delivered via a long-forgotten Apple venture that could rightfully be called the precursor to the Genius Bar or AOL.

On Aug. 28, 1991, astronauts James Adamson and Shannon Lucid sent an email from the Space Shuttle Atlantis to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The email—sent from a Macintosh Portable—read:

“Hello Earth! Greetings from the STS-43 Crew. This is the first AppleLink from space. Having a GREAT time, wish you were here,…send cryo and RCS! Hasta la vista, baby,…we’ll be back!”

AppleLink delivers

Introduced in July 1985 and originally designed as an online support service for Apple dealers, AppleLink was the first online communications service to eschew a command-line interface for the graphical user interface that put Macs on the map. The Apple-General Electric Information Services collaboration was a hit—saving Apple millions on support services—and became an internal email service for Apple employees.

AppleLink was such a success that in May 1988 Apple launched a personal edition in collaboration with Quantum Computer Services. This is where things fell flat. The service was modestly successful though a bit pricey; users paid $6 to $15 an hour plus an annual fee to access AppleLink Personal Edition, which offered a reference library and product information.

The time just wasn’t right for the personal edition, and Apple pulled support in 1991. Quantum retained the rights to the software, renamed itself America Online and opened itself to non-Mac users—and began littering the world with free installation CDs.

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