After being what he could be, the legendary computer programmer Ray Tomlinson died at 74 after suffering an heart attack just this past Saturday.
In case you don’t know, Tomlinson was the inventor of e-mail being the very first person to send such message as early as 1971 which was the time while he worked at Bolt in Boston, Beranek and Newman (BBN). This was a company that was instrumental in the development of a very early version of the internet called the ARPANET.
As an employee, he was “looking for problems [ARPANET] could solve,” Tomlinson told The Vergein a 2012 interview.
“It’s the only preposition on the keyboard”
Back then, Tomlinson came up with an ideal way of sending messages via the company’s invented INTERNET the ARPANET while he thought about GBE SNDMSG command. There have however been ways by which messages could be sent back then. In fact, there were situations whereby users can share notes on the same computer but Tomlinson was quiet different in his approach. The SNDMSG command thus sends message files to recipient’s computer something which was totally different from other inventions as at then.
In order to designate a user from his host, the “@” symbol was used.
The decision lifted the humble symbol from obscurity to international icon — it even entered MOMA’s collection in 2010. The fact it was little-used at the time made it appealing to Tomlinson, as it reduced ambiguity. Also, as he liked to say, “It’s the only preposition on the keyboard.”
Unfortunately for us, the very first email has been lost to time. As he said in an NPR interview from 2009, they were just random strings of text. “The first e-mail is completely forgettable … and, therefore, forgotten.” Thanks to his invention, Tomlinson won’t be.