Ray Tomlinson, the US tech pioneer who invented e-mail and chose to use the @ symbol is dead. He died on Saturday from an apparent heart attack. He was aged 74.
Before the advent of email back then, electronic messages were typically only sent between people on the same machine rather than different networks. In 1971, he conceived of email as a way for computer engineers to send messages to one another across a limited network. As a result of his work, people could electronically send messages to users on other computers.
Tomlinson sent the very first email back in 1971; at the time, he was working in Boston at Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (BBN), a company that was instrumental in the development of a very early version of the internet, called ARPANET.
Tomlinson once said in a company interview that he created email “mostly because it seemed like a neat idea”. The first email was sent between two machines that were side-by-side, according to that interview.
He said the test messages were “entirely forgettable and I have, therefore, forgotten them”. But when he was satisfied that the program seemed to work, he announced it via his own invention by sending a message to co-workers explaining how it could be used.
Tomlinson chose the @ symbol to connect the username with the destination address and it has become part of the international language of communication.
See a special tribute from Gmail posted on Twitter below