Story image

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

08 Mar 16

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.

Report finds GCSB in compliance with NZ rights
The Inspector-General has given the GCSB its compliance tick of approval for the fourth year in a row.
Game review: Just Cause 4 on PC
Rico Rodriguez returns to wreak over-the-top havoc for a fourth time. This time the island nation of Solís is our hero’s sandbox, ripe for destruction.
Hands-on review: Logitech G502 HERO gaming mouse
My favourite feature of the G502s is the ‘Sniper’ button, which is found on the left hand side of the device. When held, this lowers the DPI and allows you to achieve maximum accuracy whilst honing in on a kill on your favourite FPS title.
Interview: ZeniMax Online's game director talks Elder Scrolls Online
FutureFive’s Darren Price sat down with Matt Firor, ESO’s designer and now president and game director at ZeniMax Online.
IDC: Tablets stay dead, notebooks keep head above water
An IDC report predicts a soft personal PC market, slipping into further decline with the exception of notebooks, gaming PCs, and business PC upgrades.
A hands-on guide to Christmas shopping by Santa’s IT elf
Ho, ho, ho! So you’re back again for more inspiration for that hard-to-buy-for person in your life?
Govt commits $15.5m to digital identity research
“With more and more aspects of our lives taking place online it’s critical the government takes a lead to ensure New Zealanders have control of how and who uses their identity information,” says Minister Woods.
Spending on robotic systems and drones will be on the rise in 2019
Robotic systems will be the larger of the two categories throughout the five-year forecast period with worldwide robotics spending forecast to be $103.4 billion in 2019.