October 9, 2011

Who invented email?

Who invented email? That is a question that many of us will not even think about as we enter the email addresses and click send to 'forward' those hundreds and thousands of cute and interesting emails that we receive on a daily basis.

Who invented email? If you do not know, email is 40 years old this month. The first email was sent in October 1971. Yes, 40 years old!

Like Internet, email too was invented by the US military. Bolt, Beraneck and Newman, a firm that was working on the military communication network hired Ray Tomilnson to work on Advanced Research Projects Agency Network or ARPANET. ARPANET was the earliest form of internet. His task was to figure out how to do a file transfer programme . Tomlinson was asked to modify a programme called SNDMSG. This was supposed to be a programme that allowed users of the same computer to send messages to each other. And in October 1971, Tomlinson figured out how to send messages between two computers. Actually, when he first invented it and showed it to a colleague, Tomlinson was told:  "Don't tell anyone! This isn't what we're supposed to be working on."

Tomlinson invented email! He did something else too - he popularized the use of "@"! He used the @ sign to separate the user and the network they were using.

It is important to remember that email was not popular untill the WWW became popular and it led to consumers embracing the internet. However, that @ sign Tomlinson used still stays on! Even on Twitter! 

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