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Monday, 07 March 2016 00:19

Email inventor Ray Tomlinson dead at 74 Featured

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The inventor of email, computer engineer Ray Tomlinson, has died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 74.

His death was confirmed by another internet pioneer, Vinton Cerf.

Tomlinson joined Bolt Beranek and Newman (now known as Raytheon BBN Technologies) in 1967 and while there he came up with the idea of using the @ symbol to separate usernames from their host computers.

Until then, messages could be sent only between users of the same computer. Tomlinson combined the SNDMSG and CPYNET programs to come up with ARPAnet's first program for network email.

Tomlinson helped develop the TENEX operating system. He is also known for being involved in creating standards for the from, subject, and date fields which are part of every email message.

The first email, sent between two computers sitting besides each other, used the ARPANET connection between them.

Some accounts have QWERTYUIOP as being the content of the very first email, but Tomlinson himself wrote that this wasn't so.

"I have seen a number of articles both on the internet and in print stating that the first email message was 'QWERTYUIOP'. 'Taint so," he wrote.

"My original statement was that the first email message was something like 'QWERTYUIOP'. It is equally likely to have been 'TESTING 1 2 3 4' or any other equally insignificant message.

"Apparently I didn't hedge the statement enough because this got turned into bald statements that 'QWERTYUIOP' was the first email message. Probably the only true statements about that first email are that it was all upper case (shouted) and the content was insignificant and forgettable (hence the amnesia)."

Tomlinson was born in New York and attended the Broadalbin Central School. He attended the Rensselaer Polytechnic where he obtained a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1963. He obtained a master's degree in the same field from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1965. He is ranked at four on the MIT list of top 150 innovators and ideas from MIT.


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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