The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 42, October 2, 2005, Article 30


Roger deWardt Lane writes: "I recently picked up the Asylum
- Summer 2004 issue which I had never read (The book had
fallen between two boxes at the foot of my bed). I found the
first article (Jean Foy-Vaillant) most interesting. I also read
'Some Reminiscences by Q. David Bowers' He always writes
so well. But then I started to read your story of how The
E-Sylum got started. I've been reading and submitting items to
you for a couple of years, yet I never knew your background.

You must find time to copy the first three or four pages and
post it. I'm sure that half of the readers are like me and did
not know the story of early days."

[In this issue and the next, I'll reprint several paragraphs
from the article. -Editor]

Starting my career at Bell Labs in 1980 I was on the Internet
from day one, although it wasn't called that at the time. E-mail
was a natural part of my workday, as were newsgroups, an
early bulletin-board feature. By the mid-1990s "The Internet"
began getting noticed outside of universities and business. Early
interfaces were crude, and I recall vividly my excitement when
I was first able to locate a programming tool I needed over the
Internet. What once would have taken me weeks, if ever, to
find, I was able to quickly locate on a server somewhere in
Switzerland. And this was before there were graphics-based
browsers and search engines. Those who know me know I'm
not the excitable type, but I raced to get Steve DiAntonio, a
colleague I was working closely with at the time. I showed him
what I was doing and explained how it worked. I said, "this is
going to change the world." In time this new publishing medium
would change a lot of things, and would add a new dimension
to collecting numismatic literature.

Getting started took time. I recall one NBS Board meeting where
Mike Hodder and I exchanged email addresses. It was like we
were part of some exclusive society exchanging a secret handshake.
Year after year I asked for a show of hands at the annual NBS
General Meeting to see how many people had email addresses,
and each time only a few hands went up. The US numismatic
literature world just wasn't ready for a mailing list yet. But at the
fateful meeting in Portland in August 1998, dozens of hands went
up. The Internet had arrived on Main Street.

Shortly after the initial September 4 mailing, announcements
were also sent to the COINS and BIBLIONUMIS mailing lists,
as well as the Early American Coppers "Region 8" mailing list.
The initial E-Sylum mailing list was comprised of the addresses
of NBS officers and board members, other current and former
members, and other interested parties, for a total of 49 names.
By noon subscription requests began arriving from around the
world. Peter Gaspar of St. Louis, Missouri, was the first. Jere
Bacharach of the University of Washington in Seattle, was
second, with Dr. Hubert Emmerig of Austria a close third.
Some current members wrote to confirm or update their mailing
address, and ten new folks subscribed. By 5 pm the list had
already grown to 59 names. Over the course of the Labor Day
weekend another twenty people subscribed, mostly from the US,
but from as far afield as Italy, Poland and the Russian Federation.

Neil Rothschild offered to publicize the mailing list on the
Compuserve coin forum, and Bill Malkmus offered to do the
same on the NUMIS-L mailing list for collectors of ancient and
medieval coinage. By September 15 the list had grown to 90
members. Coin World published an article about the email list
in the July 5, 1999 issue.

The newsletter didn't even have a name until the February 8,
1999 issue, when we announced: "These email missives are in
their sixth month now, but they've never had a formal name.
To remedy that situation, we've decided on The E-sylum, an
obvious play on our print journal The Asylum. " Later I settled
on The E-Sylum, with a capital S.

The NBS Board had lengthy email deliberations about the name
before deciding on The E-Sylum. We voted on a list of about a
dozen suggestions. I believe The E-Sylum was my idea, but it
was my second choice  I lobbied for The Babbler, that being
what members of an Asylum are wont to do. But saner heads
prevailed, and The E-Sylum was born.

[To be continued ... -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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