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Pegasus Mail, 30 Years On

Sometime in the last two weeks of 1989, I sent myself an e-mail message: I no longer have it, unfortunately — it was lost in one of many system switches or crashes that happened in those early days... But it was the first message sent by a small MS-DOS application I had written, which at the time was called "ComNet Mail", later to be known as Pegasus Mail. Just as a matter of interest, the original name lives on in the extension given to new mail files in Pegasus Mail, .CNM, although the program as it exists today is otherwise unrecognizable.

At the time, if you had told me that thirty years later I would be writing this web page, my initial reaction would have been confusion — "What's a web page"? In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee was beginning his work on the ideas of the World Wide Web at the same time I was writing my first mailer... It seems incredible to me that Pegasus Mail has been around at least as long as the web, but it has: for thirty years, it has been a fixture in the world of the Internet.

Now, I could reminisce nostalgically about all the funny things, happy things, fulfilling things, and even the sad things that thirty years of working on this life-changing project have produced, but that would end up being a large book, and I'm sure you didn't come here to read a book. Instead, I'd like to look towards the future for a moment. There's no doubt that Pegasus Mail has become somewhat of a niche product these days, but I believe it's an important niche — a reliable mail program produced by someone without corporate ties or imperatives, who prefers to concentrate on its users and the functionality they need. Building on that basic set of values, since I began redeveloping the system I have placed an urgent emphasis on what I think is both most important and most lacking in the modern e-mail environment: privacy. Whether through e-mail encryption, robust encrypted file formats or protection against malware and tracking, my focus these days is on producing a program that will allow you to communicate in the knowledge that you are only giving out the information you actually want to give out.

I think it's important to tell you that I'm as committed to Pegasus Mail and its companion, Mercury, as I have ever been, and although the work is a bit harder these days, and the progress slower, I'm still in it for the long haul. Of course, it won't just be me — assisting me will be the teams of volunteer testers and helpers who are as much a part of these programs as I am: there are, and have been so many fine people involved in the programs over the years that it would be nearly impossible to single out any names without risking offense to others just as worthy, but I want to say a heart-felt "thank you" to all these people, whom I am proud to call friends.

So, here we are — a new decade, and exciting things on the horizon: I really hope you'll come along for the ride: it should be a good one.


David Harris

[ Page modified 1 January 2020 | Content David Harris