9 Things You Need To Know About The Man Who Invented Email Over 56 Years Ago In 1971


All of us are living a connected, digital life, thanks largely to the Internet. It all goes back to when all of us experienced E-mail for the first time, and the world instantly became a much smaller place.

However, today’s communication explosion wouldn’t have been possible if the E-mail hadn’t been invented. Therefore, we all owe our digital indulgence thanks to the effort of this gentle pioneer.

Hotmail screenshot / Wikipedia

Who was he and where was he from?

A computer programmer and electrical engineer by profession, Raymond Tomlinson was born in Amsterdam New York, on April 23, 1941. He spent his early childhood years in Broadalbin New York. It wasn’t until he was 30 that he managed to create history!

Our inventor had all the credentials to create history

After completing his basic education, Tomlinson participated in a co-op programme with the tech giant IBM during his graduating years. After graduation, he attended the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he continued his study in electrical engineering. He completed his Master’s degree in electrical engineering in the year 1965.

The first email existed long before the Internet began

While there were numerous early versions of programs that let you share notes to users on the same computer, Tomlinson’s SNDMSG program, which was created while working at BBN (Bolt Beranek and Newman), would allow users to send messages to other computers on the same network using ARPANET (the precursor that led to the invention of the mighty internet that we know today), thus being the first networked messaging program.

The first email program was made while fooling around

Tomlinson was hired to write code and programs, but his boss never asked him to build an email messaging system. He created the first e-mail program by just fooling around, in the true tradition of all great inventions!

email program

The first email was sent over a distance of just one metre

That’s right! The two computers Ray Tomlinson connected through the world’s 1st ever email message sat pretty much side-by-side on the same desk.

The ‘@’ sign and its initiation

Raymond also chose the ‘@’ symbol to connect the username with the destination address which today has turned to be the standard of e-mail communication.

World’s first email lost and forgotten

While many say that the first test e-mail that was sent in the world was ‘QWERTYUIOP’, Ray stated that it really wasn’t. In fact, in his interview with NPR, he says, ”The test messages were entirely forgettable and I have, therefore, forgotten them.”

Accolades and recognition

For his contribution to the advancement of digital communication, Raymond Tomlinson has been awarded numerous accolades in his career, including the prestigious IEEE Internet Awards in the year 2004. In 2011, he was also listed 4th on the MIT150 list of the top 150 innovators and ideas from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ray Tomlinson

End of an era

Raymond Tomlinson passed away on March 5, 2016, due to cardiac arrest. He died at the age of 74 years. He lived in Lincoln Massachusetts during his final years.

While he may have forgotten the first e-mail ever sent in this world, his legacy will remain with us forever.

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