Email is arguably one of the biggest advantages of the Internet. To many, it’s their first introduction to the Internet. Now, we’ve lost the man credited with creating it. Ray Tomlinson apparently suffered a fatal heart attack on Saturday, 5th March, 2016. He was 74 years old. Ray Tomlinson sent the first test email way back in 1971 on the predecessor of the Internet, ARPANET. He used the username@hostname format which we are all very familiar with today. His use of this format had an unintended consequence; he managed to make the @ symbol more mainstream. Today, the @ symbol is everywhere and is often used as an icon to represent the Internet or email as a whole. It’s also very popular on social media platforms like Twitter.
Ray Tomlinson received his share of recognition for his creation. He was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame, whose other inductees include Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds. Ray also received other awards such as a Webby and the IEEE Internet award. He was also listed number 4 on the MIT150 list released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
NPR asked Ray Tomlinson about the creation of email and what the first email ever sent was, but unfortunately he said that he no longer remembered what he actually sent as the first test message.
The keyboards were about 10 feet apart. I could wheel my chair from one to the other and type a message on one, and then go to the other, and then see what I had tried to send.
… test messages were entirely forgettable and I have, therefore, forgotten them.
Even as Instant Messaging services become more and more popular, all of us still can’t manage without email. Though he has passed away, I think we can safely say that his creation will live on for many more years to come.