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E-COM: An Early Form of Electronic Mail from the Post Office, 1984

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

This cover will not be found in the Scott catalog (if it were, it would definitely be a "back of book" item), but it was a step in the evolution of written communications from "snail mail" to e-mail.


E-COM, "Electronic Computer Originated Mail," began on January 4, 1982, and ended on September 2, 1984. The service was intended to allow business mailers across the US to take advantage of electronics to ensure delivery of hard-copy mail to any address within the contiguous 48 states within two days.


E-COM service originally allowed mailers to transmit messages of up to two pages (at a rate of 26-cents for the first page and 5-cents for the second) from their own computers, via telecommunication lines. After arriving at the serving Post Office, the messages were processed and sorted by ZIP Code, then printed on letter-size bond paper, folded, and sealed in envelopes printed with a blue E-COM logo. Mailers were required to send a minimum of 200 messages per transmission.


E-COM service was discontinued after the Postal Rate Commission and the Governors of the Postal Service could not come to consensus on a new rate structure. [i]


I received the E-COM message shown in Figures 1 through 4 on July 7, 1984, when I was an economist for the U.S. League of Savings Associations, a trade group headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.


The enclosure was a promotion to purchase "floppy disks," a data storage device for early personal computers. A double-sided 5-1/4" floppy disk had a storage capacity of 360 kilobytes or 0.00036 gigabytes. Stated differently, it would take more than 1,400 floppy disks to equal the 512-gigabyte capacity of my Apple iPad! Floppy disk were largely a thing of the past by the early 2000, and Sony, which had produced floppies since 1983, cease domestic sales in 2011. [ii]


The vendor - "1-800-FLOPPYS" - was a Michigan-based company organized in 1979. It was dissolved in the late 1980s.

Figure - 1

Figure 2

Figure 3 - Page 1 of 2 of enclosure

Figure 4 - Page 2 of 2 of enclosure

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