The 1991 Girl Scout Cookie Active Email

In 2017, my granddaughters began selling me Girl Scout cookies, and my daughter raved about the cool new technology for selling it on the web. It is indeed cool, but it motivated me to document my own ancient Girl Scout cookie technology research.

In 1991, I had been doing research on "active email" -- essentially, email that includes computational elements that make the message potentially look or behave differently every time you read it. (Nowadays this kind of technology is making a comeback as "dynamic email" from both Google (AMP for EMail) and Microsoft (Actionable Messages).

The first practical use of this system was for selling Girl Scout cookies. (My daughters were 6, 7, and 9, all Girl Scouts, and I was a troop leader.) I sent the message to everyone at Bellcore's Morristown research site. When anyone read the message, a new window popped up on their screen:

The buttons all did the obvious things -- finished orders were emailed to me, and my girls did very well that year. But the best part was what happened when you clicked on "Click here to see and hear my Girl Scout daughters." Three windows would pop up, each with a picture and audio of one of my daughters. (Note that this was before MIME, so the pictures and audio were also experimental in email.) It looked something -- but not exactly -- like this: