Obituaries

Inventor of Email Ray Tomlinson Dies at 74

Raymond Tomlinson
2 min read
This story originally appeared on Fortune Magazine

Ray Tomlinson, the man credited with founding email, has passed away at the age of 74, according to a report from the Sydney Morning Herald. According to the report, Tomlinson died of a heart attack.

Tomlinson was a part a team of computer programmers at research and design company Bolt Beranek and Newman (now BBN Technologies) in Cambridge, Mass., and had begun experimenting with internal messaging in 1971. Tomlinson had an idea to send a text message between computers using a new network (and a predeccesor to the Internet) called Arpanet, routing it using an “@” symbol.

He recalled the first email sent in an interview with NPR from 2009: “The keyboards were about 10 feet apart … I could wheel my chair from one to the other and type a message on one, and then go to the other, and then see what I had tried to send.”

By the 1980s government and military personnel were actively using the system. And by the 1990s email had become one of two pillars of the budding consumer Internet, alongside the World Wide Web.

Tomlinson was subsequently inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2012.

Tomlinson told NPR that he had a feeling that what he had discovered with the “@” symbol would have some impact.

“What I didn’t imagine was how quickly that would happen,” he said.

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