Tomlinson sent the very first email back in 1971; at the time, he was working in Boston at Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (BBN), a company that was instrumental in the development of a very early version of the internet, called ARPANET. As an employee, he was “looking for problems [ARPANET] could solve,” Tomlinson told The Verge in a 2012 interview.
He also decided to use the @ symbol to designate a user from its host. The decision lifted the humble symbol from obscurity to international icon — it even entered MOMA’s collection in 2010. The fact it was little-used at the time made it appealing to Tomlinson, as it reduced ambiguity. Also, as he liked to say, “It’s the only preposition on the keyboard.”
Unfortunately for us, the very first email has been lost to time. As he said in an NPRinterview from 2009, they were just random strings of text. “The first e-mail is completely forgettable … and, therefore, forgotten.” Thanks to his invention, Tomlinson won’t be.
Rest In Peace – On this day, Inventor of email and savior of the @ sign, Ray Tomlinson, has died at 74.