Ray Tomlinson, inventor of Email and `@' symbol dies at 74

Ray Tomlinson, the US programmer who invented the electronic mail (email) in the 1970s and chose the "@" symbol for the messaging system, died at the age of 74, his employer said.

 
Engineer Ray Tomlinson sent the first network email in 1971, choosing the '@' symbol to separate the name of the sender from the address of the host computer  

Tomlinson invented the direct electronic messaging system in 1971, which helped users to electronically communicate with others on the world wide web. Before the invention of the email users could only send messages on a limited network.

"A true technology pioneer, Ray was the man who brought us email in the early days of networked computers," his employer, the defence contractor and electronics giant Raytheon, said in a statement on Sunday.

Raytheon stated in its release, ''In 1971, in a windowless room in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a bearded computer scientist named Ray Tomlinson was hunched before two massive computers, struggling to send the world's first email.

''He had been programming and debugging for hours, trying fruitlessly to get a message from one cabinet-sized computer to another.

''Now he tried again, banging out his name on a teletype keyboard: TOMLINSON. He followed that with an @ symbol – a little-used key he had chosen as a separator – and then the name of the other computer.

''Tomlinson rolled his chair over to the second computer's teletype and banged out TYPE MAILBOX on the keyboard.

''For a moment there was silence. And then with a rattle, the teletype came alive. History's first email had arrived.

"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."

Tomlinson, a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, detailed his creation on his blog in an attempt to prevent legend from overtaking the facts.

"The first message was sent between two machines that were literally side by side" connected only through ARPANET, Tomlinson wrote.

A company spokesman said Tomlinson died on Saturday, and the cause of death was not yet confirmed.

Tributes poured in from the online world.

Tomlinson was the first to use the @ symbol in this way, to distinguish a user from its host.

However, the use of personal email, which is widely used for electronic communications, was adopted on a mass scale since the 1990s.