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.”
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“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:
Thank you, Ray Tomlinson, for inventing email and putting the @ sign on the map. #RIP
— Gmail (@gmail) March 6, 2016
The inventor of email has died. In lieu of flowers the family has requested that donations be made to Prince Alyusi Islaasas of Nigeria.
— Glen Weldon (@ghweldon) March 6, 2016
RIP Ray Tomlinson, creator of email, the most popular & perhaps revolutionary communications tool in human history. https://t.co/ASYyojC55S
— Andrew McLaughlin (@McAndrew) March 5, 2016
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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