Father of Email Ray Tomlinson passes away at 74

Humble programmer Tomlinson put the @ sign on the map

Ray Tomlinson, who sent the first emails across a network back in 1971, has died at the age of 74.

Tomlinson, a longtime employee of BBN Technologies, now part of Raytheon, popularized the use of the @ symbol by sticking it between user names and domain in email addresses.

ray tomlinson Andreu Veà, WiWiW.org/Wikipedia

Ray Tomlinson, Father of Email

"Of all the available punctuation marks, only the "At" sign had a sense of place," he told Computerworld back in 2007. "I could have used the 'On' sign or the 'Of' sign, but there are no such characters. So the at-sign had to be it."

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The Internet Hall of Famer describes on his website the first emails being sent between computers that were literally side by side, then to his group across the ARPANET, the Internet's precursor. As he emphasizes, there had been previous emails sent within the same computer. Tomlinson wrote about the first network emails:

Most likely the first message was QWERTYUIOP or something similar. When I was satisfied that the program seemed to work, I sent a message to the rest of my group explaining how to send messages over the network. The first use of network email announced its own existence.

The Associated Press, in writing about Tomlinson's death, said that he was "not a frequent checker of email."

The likes of Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf were among those to remark on Tomlinson's passing on social media over the weekend. Tomlinson's name was familiar to those in tech circles, but as he told Computerworld back in 2007, he was just fine not being a household name. "In fact, I'm pretty happy being unsung," he said.

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