"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
-- Proverbs 29:18, King James Bible (KJV)

Monday, March 07, 2016

Inventor of Email and First User of the @ Sign To Separate Name and Server, Ray Tomlinson, Passes Away

Business Insider via News Republic informs us that The computer legend who invented email has passed away.

Ray Tomlinson put the @ in the "first email address" in Cambridge, Massachusetts and sent the first email to himself as a test. The separation of a person's name from the server via the @ sign permitted email communication between users of different PCs, whereas that was previously not possible. All good things start small.

Tomlinson told a work colleague about his discovery, but asked him not tell anyone about it, because it was not what he was supposed to be working on.

We recall seeing that same phenomenon at Stanford in pioneer digital days, when many new discoveries were made in the course of other work. The first "bitmaps" we saw at SLAC were made during "play" on "company time"....

That was the true nature of invention in the early days of the digital era.

Sasha Cavender at Forbes in "Legends", October 5, 1998, writes about Tomlinson's innovation in detail, noting among other things that:

"Like certain other pioneers of the information age, such as Tim Berners-Lee and Vint Cerf (both profiled in previous Forbes ASAP "Legends"), Tomlinson ... changed the world and made a lot of others rich without cashing in himself. "Innovation is sometimes rewarded," he [had said] with a laugh, "but not this innovation."

Tomlinson was 75.

Hat tip to CaryGEE.