For Sale: Laptop With First Presidential E-Mail (to John Glenn in Orbit)
By Jason Paur
The machine that sent the first presidential email. Image: eBay/universityarchives02
A 14-year-old Toshiba laptop that supposedly contains the first ever presidential e-mail is up for sale on eBay. The “buy it now” price is a cool $125,000, but it does come with a fair amount of documentation, including letters signed by former President Bill Clinton and former astronaut and senator John Glenn, the recipient of the first presidential e-mail.
In 1998, President Clinton used the Toshiba Satellite Pro to send a message to Glenn aboard the space shuttle orbiter Discovery. After becoming the first American to orbit the earth in 1962, Glenn returned to space as part of Discovery mission dubbed STS-95. Glenn was 77 years old at the time, and though his inclusion on the mission was certainly a public relations success for NASA and the senator himself, he was ostensibly sent to space to gather data on older people in orbit — and on how he would respond after having been in space 36 years earlier.
The hard drive on the laptop contains an e-mail from Glenn on the evening of Nov. 6, 1998, a week after the launch of Discovery and just a day before it returned to earth. Apparently, the President didn’t e-mail back until early on the 7th, and with the Discovery touching down in Florida at 12:04 p.m. ET that day, it is unclear whether or not Glenn would have read the e-mail before getting ready for the return to Earth.
The computer does come with several signed documents as well as a White House press release and photos showing the computer being used by President Clinton. The Toshiba was actually owned by the White House physician at the time, and the auction also includes a photo signed by Clinton thanking the doctor.