This week is Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday. As part of the celebrations she will be visiting the local Post Office in Windsor – presumably to thank them for all their extra work delivering her birthday cards.
Her Majesty might even reflect on other forms of communication she has seen develop during her reign – she started posting YouTube videos in 2007 and she sent her first tweet in 2014 while opening an exhibition at the Science Museum.
Even more impressively the Queen sent her first email just over 40 years ago, in March 1976.
The message was sent from a British Army base and we’re guessing it used ARPANET – the military forerunner of the internet.
To be fair it took a while for email to really take off. It remained a pretty specialised military and then academic tool until the late 1990s – in 1998 only nine per cent of UK households had access to the internet. By the end of 2001 that was up to 39 per cent, according to the Office of National Statistics.
The lesson for business is the accelerating speed of change. This reporter received his first email in 1997 – and almost everyday saw friends and contacts at other businesses get their first accounts.
By the end of the 1990s there were very few businesses of any size which didn’t have email access of some description.
The speed with which emails displaced telexes, faxes and even phone calls was amazing.
But email itself has also changed.
From formal almost letter-like communication it changed fast – a result of changing attitudes as well as changing technology.
In 2011 less than ten per cent of emails were opened on mobile devices – and we’d bet almost all of those were either laptops or BlackBerries.
But by 2014 almost half of all emails were opened on mobiles..
Email is increasingly a mobile phenomenon – which is part of the reason it is now much less formal.
It is likely that we’re already past ‘peak email’.
Younger generations are embracing a plethora of different communication platforms from WhatsApp to Instagram and Snapchat.
It took email twenty years to come from nowhere to the dominant form of business communication.
It is a reasonable prediction that the next form of communication will take far less time to take over.
Of course that doesn’t mean the end of email – after all the Post Office in Windsor is still in business after 500 years, and still getting visits from the Queen