Story image

The man who put the '@' in your email dies aged 74

08 Mar 2016

Raymond Tomlinson, the pioneer of modern email has passed away at the age of 74.

Born in New York, Tomlinson is best known for selecting the @ symbol in order to connect a username with the destination address email, making it a central part of the communications process. The decision lifted the humble symbol from obscurity to an international icon.

Prior to Tomlinson's efforts, email existed in a limited capacity, as electronic messages could only be shared amongst people within a limited framework - there was no way to send something to a specific person at a specific address.

In a 2012 interview, Tomlinson said:

“I looked at the keyboard, and I thought: ‘What can I choose here that won’t be confused with a username?’ If every person had an ‘@’ sign in their name, it wouldn’t work too well. But they didn’t. They did use commas and slashes and brackets. Of the remaining three or four characters, the ‘@’ sign made the most sense. It denoted where the user was … at. Excuse my English.”

At the time (1971) very few people had personal computers, so it wasn't for a few years before personal email exploded and went global as a communications medium and an integral part of modern life.

The tech world reacted with sadness over the passing of Tomlinson, who became a cult figure for his invention and use of the @ symbol:

Trillions and trillions and trillions of emails have been sent using the @ symbol since Tomlinson, but the very first email he ever sent using the @ symbol is in fact lost to time. Tomlinson said in an interview it held nothing of importance and was therefore forgotten. Well thanks to his invention and the @ symbol, Tomlinson certainly won't be. R.I.P Raymond Tomlinson.

NVIDIA announces Jetson Nano: A US$99 tiny, yet mighty AI computer 
“Jetson Nano makes AI more accessible to everyone, and is supported by the same underlying architecture and software that powers the world's supercomputers.”
Slack doubles down on enterprise key management
EKM adds an extra layer of protection so customers can share conversations, files, and data while still meeting their own risk mitigation requirements.
NVIDIA introduces a new breed of high-performance workstations
“Data science is one of the fastest growing fields of computer science and impacts every industry."
Apple says its new iMacs are "pretty freaking powerful"
The company has chosen the tagline “Pretty. Freaking powerful” as the tagline – and it’s not too hard to see why.
NZ ISPs issue open letter to social media giants to discuss censorship
Content sharing platforms have a duty of care to proactively monitor for harmful content, act expeditiously to remove content which is flagged to them as illegal.
Partnership brings AI maths tutor to NZ schools
“AMY can understand why students make a mistake, and then teach them what they need straight away so they don't get stuck."
Polycom & Plantronics rebrand to Poly, a new UC powerhouse
The name change comes after last year’s Plantronics acquisition of Polycom, a deal that was worth US $2 billion.
Unencrypted Gearbest database leaves over 1.5mil shoppers’ records exposed
Depending on the countries and information requirements, the data could give hackers access to online government portals, banking apps, and health insurance records.