Which was China’s First International Email (25.8.1986) or (14.9.1987)?

At 21:07 (Beijing) on September 14th, 1987, one of China’s first ‘Electronic Mails’ (the designation later shortened to ‘e-mail’ and then ’email’) was sent from Beijing to West Germany – which definitely proves that the 1980s were a strange time for all concerned! The capitalist ‘West Germany’ had to secure permission from the controlling US government to pursue a course of ‘Justifiable’ cooperation with ‘Communist’ China! On the September 20th, 1987 – and travelling at an incredible speed (a mere ‘six days’) – the nervous technicians on the West German side finally reported the safe arrival of the email!

During September 1987, the West German Professor Werner Thorn attended a Scientific and Technological Seminar in Beijing that saw a Computer System in Beijing attempt to ‘communicate’ with a similar Computer System stationed in West Germany! After some debugging, he announced that the ‘computer connection’ between the Beijing Institute of Computer Application Technology and the Karlsruhe University Computer Centre in West Germany was both secure and ready for action! On September 20th, 1987, Professor Werner Thorn drafted an ‘Electronic Mail’ – and signed it together with Chinese Professor Wang Yunfeng (王运丰) – before initiating the highly complex the ‘SEND’ protocol successfully to a waiting computer located at the University of Karlsruhe.

A dispute exists, however, as to whether this was the ‘first’ successful international ‘Electronic Mail’ to involve ethnic Chinese (scientific) personnel and/or Chinese stationed (or derived) computer technology!

An alternative (and certainly ‘earlier’) claim involves Chinese scientists working with the ALEPH group at the Institute of High Energy Physics during 1986 (ALEPH was concerned with high-energy physics experimentation conducted through the High Energy Electron Collider LEP held at the Western European Nuclear Centre). It was through the ‘International Cooperation Group’ that Chinese scientists participated in the ALEPH group. (The Institute of High Energy Physics was a member of the International Cooperation Group). On August 25th, 1986, at 04:11 hrs Geneva time, Switzerland, and 11:11 hrs Beijing time – Wu Weimin (吴为民) – the group leader, sent China’s first international ‘Electronic Mail’ to the leader of ALEPH using the IBM-PC located at the Beijing 710 Institute! This ‘Electronic Mail’ was directed to the computer stationed at the Western European Nuclear Centre in Geneva, Switzerland – and was addressed to the Nobel laureate Jack Steinberger! The body of this important text reads:

‘Dear Jack, I am delighted to send you this letter via a computer network, which I believe is the first successful computer communication between the Western European Centre for Nuclear Research and China. I would like to thank you again for your recent visit to Beijing. It was this visit that led to the success of this valuable experiment in computer communication. Now, I think, every member of the ALEPH collaboration group is connected by a computer network. This is very important. Of course, there are still many problems to analyse through ALEPH’s data compression tapes in Beijing, and to find funding to do this. But most importantly, we have started. Currently I use the IBM-PC from the 710 to contact you. We will eventually connect with you through the microwave communication currently used by the M160H computer at the Institute of High Energy Physics. Please say hello to your colleagues on our behalf, I wish you, Xinxia and your family happiness. By the way, you bought it in Shanghai How about the carpet? For the people!’

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