… but email very much lives on. Ray Tomlinson, the inventor of the email, sadly passed away last weekend, aged just 74. Few could truly claim to have revolutionised communication in the way he did.
Instant and Social messaging have certainly made a dent in email’s popularity in peer-to-peer comms now, but it’s worth noting that while Twitter has popularised the @ symbol for a new generation in the 21st century – it was Ray Tomlinson who brought it into everyday use with the email address way back in 1971.
One of the early ‘net innovators he sent an electronic mail to himself for the first time over the internet’s predecessor the ARPANET, one of the US military’s DARPA-funded projects. Prior to this the @ symbol was largely the preserve of accountants and sales people seeking to clarify the cost/size per unit of something.
An estimated 13 billion emails are sent every day, and attempts to own the medium – such as Hotmail, AOL Mail, Gmail and a plethora of others – have all failed to dominate what’s proved to be as democratic and universal as the address of the very houses and apartments we live in… If we had multiple residences and couldn’t find the keys to all of them that is.
One of the challenges of democracy though is that people can say what they want – and very soon after the invention of both the internet and the email, someone got the bright idea of sending unsolicited emails which become known as spam. Every silver lining has a cloud?
Email was one of the seismic changes in the way we communicate so let’s salute its inventor and celebrate its ubiquity.