Reply All: #11 Did Errol Morris' Brother Invent Email?
January 29, 2015 8:08 AM - Subscribe

There was a lot that Errol Morris never knew about his brilliant, distant older brother Noel. Decades after Noel's death, Errol read an internet comment that said his brother had invented email. So he launched an investigation to find out if it was true.
posted by radioamy (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I like when Reply All finds these neat little stories that are both about the Internet and about human relations. Errol Morris cared less about finding proof that his brother invented email and more about finding out who his brother was.

The show could have used some YYN, however.
posted by radioamy at 8:09 AM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I liked this one - it hit the "reply all" sweet spot - a bit TAL, a touch of Planet Money's tone, and an interesting story to book.

I do hope YYN makes another appearance soon.
posted by jazon at 8:48 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like Reply All, I like email, and I like Errol Morris, so there was a lot for me to like here.
posted by maxsparber at 10:04 AM on January 29, 2015

Sooo...apparently I'm culturally unaware because I didn't realize that Errol Morris was a director. I guess this makes a little more sense that he is someone famous. I literally thought he was just some random guy.
posted by radioamy at 5:11 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

radioamy, check out his work sometime - he's definitely a MeFi-kind of director. My favourite is Tabloid, though for this post his 30 minute doc on IBM might be more appropriate.

On subject: This was great - we need to record the history of computer science while it's being left as 'papers in a box' falling to dust somewhere. Related: This mini-doc on Grace Hopper.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 4:31 PM on January 30, 2015

That was good and I am sending it to my Dad who was at MIT in the 70s.

I only wish I had learned more about Noel. I'm happy he had a rich life but what kind of guy was he?

I had to keep reminding myself this was not Errol Flynn.
posted by bq at 7:57 PM on January 30, 2015

All respect due to our pal Starlee Kine who put us on this story. Errol Morris wrote a series of several thousand word long interviews about his brother's place in the history of email in 2011, and they were actually very technical. But poring over them they created a meta-story, a story about how his brother died tragically young and was tragically unknowable. The closest he was going to get was boxes of notes about programs long forgotten by history. They gave Errol insight into his brother's work - his accomplishments and contributions to a field, but Noel remains a cypher to his surviving family, almost three decades after his death. It makes sense, then, that Errol, a person who looks at facts and orders them into a narrative for a living, would try to do the same thing with his brother. Errol, by the way, couldn't be a nicer guy.
posted by Alex Goldman at 8:22 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

Alex shouldn't you be with your wife and baby right now? Also did you name the baby PJ?

We are going to miss you on the show while you are on paternity leave!
posted by radioamy at 12:03 AM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Does anyone know if there's a way I can download .mp3s of the podcast? I really enjoyed the first episode and I'd like to keep listening, but I'm finding it difficult to get it onto my old-fashioned mp3 player.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 8:26 PM on February 1, 2015

Hmm good question on the MP3s. I asked them on Twitter.
posted by radioamy at 8:53 PM on February 1, 2015

One Second Before Awakening: Go here, and the links for each episode will download an MP3. You can get to similar pages for Gimlet's other podcast from here.
posted by Emanuel at 5:58 AM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Many thanks, radioamy and Emanuel! I'm pumped to start listening to these.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 7:43 AM on February 2, 2015

I know it's practically a Rule of Storytelling that it had to happen that way, but it still cheered me that--given that Errol viewed his brother a an obsessive, a "cipher," and someone who might have had Asperger's--Noel had had enough of a positive effect on others during his lifetime that hundreds of people showed up to his funeral.
posted by psoas at 10:20 AM on February 2, 2015

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