Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Ray Tomlinson: The man who put @ in your email

The man who put @ in your email

On Saturday March 5, Ray Tomlinson 74, one of the inventors of email, passed away. RIP

"A form of email was already known to users of time-sharing computers, but with Arpanet coming into being, new programs started popping up for sending mail piggyback on File Transfer Protocol. An email program that immediately became popular due to its simplicity was sendmsg, written by Ray Tomlinson, a young engineer at Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), a Boston-based company, which was the prime contractor for building the Arpanet. He also wrote a program called readmail to open the email. His email programs have obviously been superseded in the last thirty years by others. But one thing that has survived is the @ sign to denote the computer address of a sender. Tomlinson was looking for a symbol to separate the receiver’s user name and the address of his host computer. When he looked at his Teletype, he saw a few punctuation marks available and chose @ since it had the connotation of ‘at’ among accountants, and did not occur in software programs in some other connotation".
(From Sand to Silicon: The amazing story of digital technology by Shivanand Kanavi, Rupa & Co 2007).

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