Twenty years and counting...
The very earliest mail message I still have that was sent by Pegasus Mail is dated February 13th 1990: it is from me, to me, has the subject line "A little test", and a body that simply says "what are you doing for dinner tonight?". I know there were earlier messages than this, but because I had no sense of posterity, I never made any attempt to keep them - I really didn't think Pegasus Mail would be around for more than a couple of years, just like any other piece of software.
So, a bit like a puppy whose actual birthday is not known for sure, I have always celebrated Pegasus Mail's birthday on February 13th, except on years when that was a Friday (because I'm a little superstitious). Most years, the celebration consists of nothing much more than me thinking "Gosh, have I REALLY been doing this for xx years?!?", but this year seems worthy of a slightly more public observation - this year, Pegasus Mail turns 20. Scary though it seems, I have users of my program who were not yet born when it sent its first message. Even scarier is the thought that when I started doing this I was 28, and now I'm 48: I've spent not far off half my life working on Pegasus Mail and its constellation of related programs, documents, interfaces and technologies.
It's amazing to me, sitting here in my sunny little office in Dunedin, New Zealand, to think of everything that has happened in those 20 years - the people who have been involved, some who have stayed and some who have moved on; the lows and highs (and there have been plenty of both); the changes, both to the programs and to the world they live in... In fact, it's those changes that always astound me most, I think: when I started, the Internet was barely known: in New Zealand, "The Internet" had just recently moved from being a single 9600bps (that's "bits per second") leased line serving the entire country to an incredible 64Kbps ("kilobits per second") line - still serving the whole country... E-mail was the most exciting new thing I'd ever seen, the World Wide Web didn't exist at all, there was no such thing as a "URL", and the idea of "spam" was a kind of silly joke that nobody thought would amount to anything more than a mild, passing nuisance... In 1990, I was still occasionally using a modem to access BIX (the Byte Information Exchange), which was a "bulletin board" - an idea now totally lost in history. These things seem unreal now - distant and almost incomprehensible: indeed, there are days when I feel like Methuselah, impossibly old.
How different the world is now. E-mail is like bread - we consume it without even thinking about it any more, the World-Wide-Web has become the largest corporate battleground in history and most of the Western World spends a sizable portion of each day immersed in it; URLs are now more commonly-seen than phone numbers, spam constitutes more than 90% of all the mail circulating the world, and nobody under 30 would probably have even the faintest idea what a "modem" or a "bulletin board" were.
In almost any other field of human endeavour, 20 years is not a long time - it's not even a single human generation... But in the Internet, 20 years is near to eternity, and for 20 years, Pegasus Mail has been out there riding the clouds, pulling me along with it like a slightly bewildered Bellerophon. The program has always seemed to have something of a personal existence all of its own - there are times when I have really felt as though I was just along for the ride (probably more frequently as the program has become older). I rather like that, though - the sense that it's not just an outgrowth of me, but something that reflects the nature of a community of users - there's something personal about that, and I've always felt that many of those who have used Pegasus Mail for a long time feel it too.
So now we're about to enter the third decade of Pegasus Mail. Will it make it to 30? Who knows, but I really hope so: I still enjoy working on it, and even though the Pegasus Mail Thousand hasn't had entirely the response I might have hoped for, I'll keep working on Pegasus Mail and Mercury for as long as I can. I hope you'll join me for the ride, so we can watch together how the world will change again, but for now, if you are of a drinking disposition, think about raising a glass to Pegasus Mail on February 13th, as it celebrates this major milestone in its life: I certainly will be.
All my very best wishes to you all,
-- David Harris --
February 11th 2010.