Tomlinson was also the first person to use now “@” symbol in email address.
His first email was sent from one computer to another computer in the same room. This email message did not travel through the internet that we use today. It travelled via ARPANET, a network of computers that preceded the internet.
He should be thanked for initiating the incredible new era of communication through email that we now enjoy. Tomlinson has been frequently asked what the first message was and to many people’s disappointment he says, it was something like “QWERTYIOP”.
Tomlinson had decided to use the “@” symbol to separate the recipient’s name from their location. It was to indicate that the user was “at” some other host rather than being local. During past decades format of emailing has changed a lot, but the “user@host” remains the standard for email addresses that we use even today.
Tomlinson was working as a computer engineer for BBN Technologies. This was the company hired by the United States Defence Department to build ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) to connect various research organisations across the country.
No one had asked him to invent email. Because of own interest Tomlinson had worked on it. The innovative email software he created was called “SNDMSG”. Email began as an experiment to see if two computers could exchange a message. In those days messages could get transferred from computer to computer but there was no really good way to leave messages on a computer for people to access them later.
Tomlinson also played a large role in developing the first email standards. He became a co-author of RFC-561 program in 1973. This defined several of the email fields we still use today like From, Subject, and Date. Every time we send or receive an email or see the ever present “@” in our digital world, we should remember Tomlinson and his path breaking invention.