Ray Tomlinson: Email inventor dies aged 74

March 6, 2016

Ray Tomlinson, the American programmer widely credited with inventing email, has died aged 74, his employer Raytheon Co. confirmed his death.Mr Tomlinson invented direct electronic messages between users on different machines on a certain network in 1971.Before then, users could only write messages to others using the same computer.”A true technology pioneer, Ray was the man who brought us email in the early days of networked computers,” his employer, Raytheon, said in a statement.”His work changed the way the world communicates and yet, for all his accomplishments, he remained humble, kind and generous with his time and talents. He will be missed by one and all.”A company spokesman said Mr Tomlinson passed away eight hours ago, and the cause of death was not yet confirmed.Email existed in a limited capacity before Tomlinson in that electronic messages could be shared amid multiple people within a limited framework.Before his invention in 1971 of the first network person-to-person email, there was no way to send something to a specific person at a specific address.

The first email was sent on the ARPANET system, a computer network that was created for the U.S. government that is considered a precursor to the internet. Tomlinson also contributed to its development.At the time, few people had personal computers. The popularity of personal email wouldn’t take off until years later but has become an integral part of modern life.Tomlinson, who was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2012, is best known for rescuing the @ symbol from obscurity and, in the process, shaped the way we talk about being online.Forty years ago, Tomlinson was an engineer at the R&D company Bolt Beranek and Newman when he developed an application that allowed messages to be sent back and forth between computers. He chose @ for practical purposes, needing something to separate the user name from the host name, and selecting a symbol with a modicum of familiarity to the general public. At the time, it was used mostly for accounting purposes but some linguists think the marking dates to the sixth century, invented as an abbreviation for the Latin word meaning “toward” or “at.”His official biography page on the Internet Hall of Fame website credit’s Tomlinson with “fundamentally changing the way people communicate”.”Today, tens of millions of email-enabled devices are in use every day.

Email remains the most popular application, with over a billion and a half users spanning the globe and communicating across the traditional barriers of time and space,” his citation reads.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 to use it.Tomlinson was hired by Bolt Beranek and Newman, known as BBN, in 1967. It was later acquired by Raytheon Co., where he still worked at the time of his death, as a principal scientist.He lived in Lincoln, Massachusetts where he raised miniature sheep. Attempts to contact his family were unsuccessful. While more general email protocols have been developed and adopted, Tomlinson’s contributions will never be forgotten.

Contador Harrison