Inbox hero: Ray Tomlinson, the inventor of email, has died

Ray Tomlinson, the man you can blame for your email overload, died Saturday at 74.

The engineer is celebrated for creating the first person-to-person computer messaging service in 1971 over a system that’s the precursor to the modern Internet. Tomlinson also popularized the “@ symbol” for recipient’s addresses because it was the “only preposition on the keyboard.”

“A true technology pioneer, Ray was the man who brought us email in the early days of networked computers,” Raytheon, the company where he worked, said in a statement. The cause of his death was not released.

In a 2012 interview with The Verge, Tomlinson explained he created email because the telephone was problematic in that “someone had to be there to receive the call” — and voicemail hadn’t been widely implemented yet. He said that people ultimately latched onto using computers to communicate because it was convenient.

Tributes and light-hearted jokes poured in from the Internet:

Tomlinson has said he was surprised how his invention — people send some 100 billion emails each day — took over the world.

“I see email being used, by and large, exactly the way I envisioned,” he said. “In particular, it’s not strictly a work tool or strictly a personal thing. Everybody uses it in different ways, but they use it in a way they find works for them.”
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