The Story Behind CC and BCC

October 7, 2011 | posted in: Tech Chronicles | by

The Terms 'CC' and 'BCC' Originated from Carbon Copying Letters and Documents. Image courtesy of

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

October 7, 1806
English inventor, Ralph Wedgewood, received a patent for the Stylographic Writer, a tool to help the blind write without using ink.

An ink-soaked piece of paper was placed between two blank sheets, and a frame of horizontal wires acted as a guide for the blind writer’s stylus. This ink-soaked paper was the first ‘carbon-paper’ or the first ‘carbon-copy’.

Carbon copies were useful for many years – as a means of making more than one copy of a document or letter.  The use of carbon copies declined with the advent of photocopying and electronic document creation and distribution (word processing). Carbon copies are still used in special applications, for example, in manual receipt books which have a multiple-use sheet of carbon paper supplied, in order that the user can keep an exact copy of each receipt issued, although even here carbonless copy paper is often used to the same effect.

It is still common for a business letter to include, at the end, a list of names preceded by the abbreviation “cc:”, indicating that the named persons are to receive copies of the letter, even though carbon paper is no longer used to make the copies.

In e-mail, the abbreviation CC indicates those who are to receive a copy of a message addressed primarily to another. The list of CCed recipients is visible to all other recipients of the message. An additional BCC (blind carbon copy) field is available for hidden notification; recipients listed in the BCC field receive a copy of the message, but are not shown on any other recipient’s copy (including other BCC recipients).

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