Columbia MM
MM Manual



The initials MM stand for mail manager, according to the oldest documentation. The origins of MM are preserved in the following text, excerpted from an old program listing:

The original version of MM was written by Michael McMahon at SRI International, presently at Symbolics. At the time, it used a unique command parser designed by McMahon (ULTCMD), and had a similar user interface to the then-popular Tenex MSG program. Stuart McLure Cracraft was also involved in early MM development and was primarily responsible for early popularizing of MM.

In the summer of 1978, a version of MM came to DEC. Ted Hess at DEC converted it to MACRO and to use the COMND% JSYS instead of ULTCMD. Since the summer of 1979 most of the MM maintainence and development has been done by Mark Crispin, with occasional contributions from others too numerous to name. MM has matured to become the standard mailsystem on most of the existing TOPS-20 systems. Extensive input from its numerous users has made MM a powerful and reliable mailsystem.

Then, about seven years later, DEC (Digital Equipment Corp) discontinued the DEC-20 line. Columbia University, which had several hosts running the TOPS-20 MM, conducted surveys of what users required in a replacement system, and an equivalent of MM was high on the list. After UNIX systems were chosen by the Columbia University Center for Computing Activities (CUCCA) and the Computer Science Department, development of a UNIX MM was begun to obviate use of the standard UNIX utility mail, which was considered unsatisfactory for general users, and far below the convenience of MM.

The main writers of Columbia MM were Chris Maio of the Computer Science Department and Fuat Baran, Howie Kaye and Melissa Metz of CUCCA. The program was written in the C language and incorporates the CCMD package, written at Columbia by Andrew Lowry and Howie Kaye. CCMD was really a separate project that carried over, in C, some very desirable TOPS-20 features, including help by typing question-mark, recognition of partially typed commands, and completion of commands and filenames with one key (the escape key in TOPS-20). CCMD was publicly announced in the summer of 1987.

The first version of Columbia MM was put into service on CUCCA's UNIX hosts in January to March 1988 (the original cunixa and cunixb, both Sun4/280s running SunOS, and cunixc, a DEC VAX running Ultrix; all three since retired). Development continued, and in May 1988 beta testing began at other sites.

Version 0.90 of December 1990 was the first version considered out of beta test. By that date, over one hundred sites worldwide were using the last beta test version, 0.88.

Academic Information Systems (successor to CUCCA) made free electronic mail accounts available to all University faculty and staff in 1990 and to all University students in 1991. MM is the mail program of choice for the project.


MM is available by anonymous ftp from (, in the mm subdirectory. For information, send mail to (Internet), info-mm-request@cunixf (BITNET), or ...rutgers!columbia!info-mm-request (UUCP).

System administrators are invited to register by sending mail to info-mm-request. Updates and patches will be sent as they become available.


Users at other sites should send questions about use to local experts first. The address bug-mm should be set up locally to take questions about MM; the command bug sends mail to bug-mm. Reports of bugs, suggestions for improvement, and compliments may be sent to


The help screens that you view with the help command started as short descriptions by the writers of MM. They were expanded by Lynn Jacobsen in 1989, and then revised extensively in 1990 by Joseph Brennan with intensive proofreading by MM's writers. The help screens are the most exact and full documentation for each command.

Early MM paper documentation, back to the DEC20s, was written by the staff of CUCCA User Services, mainly Sue Zayac, Lisa Covi and Lynn Jacobsen. The old MM Manual appeared in 1988 and was expanded in 1989 and 1990. The last edition was called "March 1990 edition, revised December 1990" and was offered by ftp to other sites when MM 0.90 was released. Joseph Brennan did the 1990 revisions and wrote the present MM User Guide as a replacement.


Kermit is a set of communications software programs (actually it is a protocol or set of standards for which programs can be written) that was first developed at Columbia University. Kermit programs are available for MS-DOS and Macintosh microcomputers, as well as almost all other computers, and may be copied for free or ordered at a small cost from the Kermit project at Columbia. For information, send electronic mail to, or write: Kermit Distribution, Columbia University, 612 West 115th Street, New York NY 10025 USA. MS-DOS users may want to purchase the book Using MS-DOS Kermit by Christine Gianone (Digital Press, 1990), which includes a copy of MS-DOS Kermit. Use of Kermit is separate from use of MM, but because we support both at Columbia, and Kermit is so widely used, some examples of kermit file transfer were included in the MM User Guide.

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