Email Trailblazer Raymond Tomlinson Dead At 74

Tomlinson made the @ symbol one of the most visible characters on the Internet.
Raymond Tomlinson in 2009, prior to the presentation of the Prince of Asturias awards. Tomlinson died of an apparent hea
Raymond Tomlinson in 2009, prior to the presentation of the Prince of Asturias awards. Tomlinson died of an apparent heart attack on Sunday, March 6. 

Raymond Tomlinson, the man who put the @ symbol in email and forever changed the way humans communicate, died Saturday at age 74.

His death was confirmed by the Internet Hall of Fame and fellow Internet pioneers Vinton Cerf, considered one of the fathers of the web, and Grady Booch, who is famous for developing the Unified Modeling Language

He died of an apparent heart attack, several outlets reported. 

Born in Amsterdam, New York, Tomlinson is most famous for establishing person-to-person email as we know it, allowing people to send emails to users on other computers. He chose the @ symbol -- then considered an obscure keyboard character -- to separate usernames from email hosts. Tomlinson came up with the idea while working for Bolt Beranek and Newman, the software company that developed the Internet precursor ARPANET, in 1971.


“I looked at the keyboard, and I thought: ‘What can I choose here that won’t be confused with a username?'” Tomlinson said in a 2012 profile in Wired, adding that he can't remember what his first email said. 

“They were all test messages, and whatever came to hand as I put my fingers on the keyboard is what I would send,” he said. “The first one could have said almost anything.”

The innovation earned him a place in the Internet Hall of Fame earlier in 2012.

"Tomlinson's email program brought about a complete revolution, fundamentally changing the way people communicate, including the way businesses, from huge corporations to tiny mom-and-pop shops, operate and the way millions of people shop, bank, and keep in touch with friends and family, whether they are across town or across oceans," the Hall of Fame wrote when he was inducted. 

"Today, tens of millions of email-enabled devices are in use every day. Email remains the most popular application, with over a billion and a half users spanning the globe and communicating across the traditional barriers of time and space."

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that Tomlinson was born in Amsterdam, New York.



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