The Story Of How Bill Clinton Sent The First Presidential Email

Toshiba laptops were so sick in 1998. They sent emails to SPACE!

This is a Toshiba Satellite Pro laptop (remember those?) computer used by Bill Clinton in 1998.

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As we previously reported, this laptop, used to send the first ever presidential email, is up for auction, and the bid has jumped up to a crazy $50,556.

As it turns out, the circumstances of that first email exchange — between Clinton and astronaut John Glen — are actually pretty fascinating.

The laptop actually belonged to White House Physician Commander Robert G. Darling.

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The event was unplanned, and when Clinton heard Glen wanted to exchange letters, White House staffers had to scramble to find a computer. (“Make it happen,” is what Clinton literally said.) Here’s the official memo/story:

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And here is the very non-urgent matter at hand Glen wished to discuss with the president from space. Here, Glen’s email to Clinton on Nov. 6, 1998:


“This is certainly a first for me, writing to a President from space, and it may be a first for you in receiving an E mail direct from and [sic] orbiting spacecraft. In any event, I want to personally thank you and Mrs. Clinton for coming to the Cape to d/see [sic] the launch. I hope you enjoyed it just half as much as we did on board. It is truly an awesome experience from a personal standpoint, and of even greater importance for all of the great research projects we have on Discovery. The whole crew was impressed that you would be the first President to personally see a shuttle launch and asked me to include their best regards to you Hillary. She has discussed her interest in the space program with Annie on several occasions, and I know she would like to be on a flight just like this one. We have gone almost a third of the way around the world in the time it has taken me to write this letter, and the rest of the crew is waiting.”

On the morning of Nov. 7, Clinton responded:


“Thanks for your message. Hillary and I had a great time at the launch. We are very proud of you and the entire crew, and a little jealous. We can’t wait for you to get home so we can have a first hand report. Meanwhile back on earth, we’re having a lot of fun with your adventure. At a camp rally in Queens, I asked an 83 year old lady what she thought of your trip. She replied that it seemed like a perfectly fine thing for a young man like you to do! I hope your last few hours go well. Give my best to the rest of the crew.”

That’s pretty freaking remarkable. It may seem mundane to us now, but just think — 16 years ago, we were sending emails to space. And space is awesome.

 

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