The exact origin of email is not easy to establish, but certainly
we can pinpoint the origin of modern email addresses: in October
1971, an engineer named Ray Tomlinson chose the '@' symbol for email
addresses and wrote software to send the first network email.
[read his story here]
The " little snail" @ has since become a staple of online
Mr Tomlinson has been called the father of e-mail because, back
in 1971, he invented the software that allowed messages to be sent
between computers. He didn't invent e-mail itself. That had been
around since 1965 when Fernando Corbato and colleagues at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology developed a program to let the individual
users of the institution's Compatible Timesharing System (CTSS)
But that program only let people using one machine communicate
with each other. Ray Tomlinson made it possible to swap messages
between machines in different locations; between universities, across
continents, and oceans.
At the time Mr Tomlinson was working for Boston-based Bolt, Beranek
and Newman, (BBN )which was helping to develop Arpanet, the forerunner
of the modern internet.
Just as important as the 200 lines of code that made up the e-mail
software was Mr Tomlinson's elegant way of organising the addresses
of people and the computers that held their e-mail account.
The Model 33 Teletype keyboard connected to the computer Mr Tomlinson
was using only had about 12 punctuation characters. Out of this
limited pool he plumped for the @ symbol which has since become
an icon for the internet age - as well as launching a thousand naff