Ray Tomlinson, the man who invented email and revolutionised the way we work, has passed away at the age of 74. As well as pioneering the electronic messaging programme, he chose the @ symbol to incorporate into the address of each user.
2.6bn people communicate via email, with over 205bn emails being sent each day
Tomlinson gained a cult following for his 1971 invention, which first appeared on ARPANET, the forerunner of the modern internet. The system allowed messages to be sent between individuals from separate computers on different servers for the first time; through it, Tomlinson sent the world’s first email.
After studying at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and MIT, Tomlinson began working for Bolt Beranek (now Raytheon BBN Technologies), the R&D company where his breakthrough was made.
Tomlinson’s invention had a huge impact on modern living, igniting a shift from communication via faxes and post to instantaneous dialogue between parties from one end of the planet to the other. Email changed how friends kept in contact, the way companies interacted with their clients, and how people communicated within and between organisations. According to Raytheon BBN Technologies, it is estimated around 2.6bn people communicate via email, with over 205bn emails being sent each day.
In 2012, Tomlinson was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame for his invention. “I’m often asked: ‘Did I know what I was doing?” he said at the time. “The answer is: ‘Yeah. I knew exactly what I was doing. I just had no notion whatsoever about what the ultimate impact would be.'”
Until his death on March 5, Tomlinson worked as a principle engineer at Raytheon BBN Technologies.