Inventor of email Ray Tomlinson dies @ 74

7 Mar 2016

The Godfather of Email Ray Tomlinson - credited with rescuing the @ symbol from obscurity - has passed away at the age of 74

The godfather of email, Raymond Tomlinson, who established the structure of email as we know it and who rescued the @ symbol from obscurity has died, reportedly of a suspected heart attack.

Tomlinson, who was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2012, as well as making the @ symbol part of the daily lexicon of the connected world, also helped drive standards for the “From” and “Subject” fields that are standard in email.

While working at an R&D firm called Bolt Beranek and Newman in Boston, he invented direct email as we know it between users on different machines via the ARPANET protocol in 1971.

Prior to this, users could only share notes and messages on the same computer.

It was at this stage that he used the @ symbol as way of separating a user’s name from their host domain.

@ the start of a communications revolution


Ray Tomlinson, the godfather of email

Email became the de facto digital communications tool from the early days of the popular internet in the 1990s and is used by more than 1.5bn.

Not only that, but the @ symbol has become instrumental to many forms of communication via the internet today, particularly on platforms like Twitter and Facebook for linking directly to other users within messages and posts.

“A true technology pioneer, Ray was the man who brought us email in the early days of networked computers,” his employer, Raytheon, said in a statement.

“His work changed the way the world communicates and yet, for all his accomplishments, he remained humble, kind and generous with his time and talents, He will be missed by one and all.”

@ symbol image via Shutterstock


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years