As AOL celebrates its 35th birthday on May 24, we’re looking back at the internet pioneer’s legacy, including its most influential figures and noteworthy history.
Aside from the endless pop culture references and memorable Instant Messenger culture, there is one figure that stands out as the brand’s most recognizable. And no, we’re not talking about Steve Case, who co-founded the company, then named “Quantum Computer Services,” back in 1985… or the yellow AIM icon.
In fact, even if you weren’t one of America Online’s legacy users, you’re definitely familiar with the “You’ve Got Mail” greeting. Elwood Edwards, now in his mid-60s, was the voice behind the iconic welcome, as well as three other of the software’s signature catchphrases: “Hello,” “Goodbye” and “File’s Done.”
In 1989, Edwards was working as a voiceover actor on television commercials when he recorded America Online’s voice for only $200. His former wife, Karen, was an employee at Quantum Computer Services at the time and had heard the company was looking for a voice actor.
“[She] overheard [future CEO] Steve Case talking about adding a voice to the then-upcoming AOL software in 1989,” Edwards told AOL in 2012. “So, she volunteered my voice and on a cassette deck in my living room, I recorded the phrases that you’ve come to know.”
Most recently, Edwards opened up about the legacy of his voice in the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz.
“I’ve been an announcer my entire broadcasting career,” Edwards said in the podcast’s Sept. 2019 episode. “It was nothing new to me to hear my voice coming out of a little speaker. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time.”
“I don’t think anyone had any idea what it would become. Certainly, had I realized it at the time I would now be retired, but I’m not. Even today, I have an AOL account, an email account…When you sign on to that, you still hear me say, ‘You’ve Got Mail.'”
Edwards retired in 2014 after 47 years in television, but AOL users — and Uber passengers — are still quick to recognize his classic voice. In 2016, Edwards was driving for the rideshare platform when a passenger made the connection.
And although he doesn’t necessarily go around “blowing his horn” about his identity, Edwards occasionally reminds people of his fame while standing behind their computers and saying the phrase.
Even three decades later, AOL email users can still hear that iconic three word phrase, voiced by Edwards, when they open their inboxes. All they have to do is turn it on in their settings.
“What started off as a test has continued to this day,” he proudly shared.
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