Answer: Bill Clinton
The first U.S. president to use email was Bill Clinton. In office between 1993 and 2001, Clinton caught the first wave of email adoption and widespread internet use. Although he was the first president to type an email, he certainly wasn’t a prolific user. While talking in front of the Wired for Change conference in 2011, he joked:
“I sent a grand total of two emails as president, one to our troops in the Adriatic, and one to John Glenn when he was 77 years old in outer space. I figured it was OK if Congress subpoenaed those.”
If you’re curious as to what happened to the laptop featured in the photo above, a Toshiba Satellite, there’s a little backstory to that too. The laptop belonged to White House physician Robert Darling who lent it to the president when he heard Clinton wanted to send an email to John Glenn in space. The White House, at the time, was so unprepared for the event that the president had neither a computer to use nor an official email address—the email was sent from Darling’s personal AOL account. Darling kept the laptop until 2000 when he sold it. It was later auctioned off by its second owner in 2014 to an undisclosed buyer for nearly $61,000.
As for email at the White House, after the early (and sparse) use of email by President Clinton, usage grew with each subsequent administration. George W. Bush significantly increased email usage in the Oval Office during his two terms compared to Clinton’s sparse two emails. When Barack Obama took office in 2009, he was very open about how important email was for keeping in touch with his staff and government offices. Although email might have had a slower adoption rate in the White House and on Capitol Hill compared to the rest of the country, they’re all thoroughly in the 21st century now.