Raymond Tomlinson, the man credited with being the inventor of email as we know it today, died on Saturday at age 74 according to Raytheon, the defense technology company where he worked as an engineer.
— Raytheon (@Raytheon) March 7, 2016
Tomlinson joined Bolt Beranek and Newman in Cambridge, Mass., as a computer programmer in 1967. According to The New York Times, he was working on Arpanet, a forerunner of the Internet created for the Defense Department. A messaging program called SNDMSG, which allowed communication between computers attached to the same central processing unit, already existed. In 1971, Tomlinson’s efforts to get a message from one computer to another, on separate CPUs, was successful.
His achievement is punctuated by his choice of the “@” symbol to separate a user name from a destination address, as the Times puts it. Raytheon said in the process he created “one of the most universally recognized digital icons on the planet.”
The first email reportedly traveled only 100 yards —from a computer known as BBN-TENEXB to a router elsewhere in the building, then back to the second computer, BBN-TENEXA
Tomlinson “revolutionized communications, fundamentally changing the way people and organizations interact,” Raytheon said. “Today, an estimated 2.6 billion people worldwide use email to communicate. They are sending more than 205 billion emails a day, eliminating traditional barriers of time and space.”
“I’m often asked ‘Did I know what I was doing?” Tomlinson said at his induction into the Internet Hall of Fame. “The answer is: Yeah. I knew exactly what I was doing. I just had no notion whatsoever about what the ultimate impact would be.”
On Twitter Monday, Tomlinson was remembered for his monumental invention.
Thank you, Ray Tomlinson, for inventing email and putting the @ sign on the map. #RIP
— Gmail (@gmail) March 6, 2016
Thanks for changing the world…a billion messages at a time
Ray Tomlinson, April 23, 1941 – March 5, 2016 pic.twitter.com/1ftgkt4KyV
— Steven J. Frisch (@stevenjfrisch) March 7, 2016
— BBC Technology (@BBCTech) March 7, 2016
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) March 7, 2016
— Popular Science (@PopSci) March 7, 2016