Thu, 16 Jan 2014

Ray Tomlinson Sent The First E-Mail In 1971

The summer of 1971 is a time to remember. A simple computer engineer, Ray Tomlinson sent the first e-mail in 1971 while working for ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). The message was: "QWERTYUIOP".

He had sent it on the computer sitting beside the computer he was using, approximately a meter away. Ray Tomlinson, who is an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) graduate, was the one who developed a way of sending short simple messages to other people through a network.

Ray Tomlinson Wrote The E-Mail In A Program Called SNDMSG

While it's hard to think of a time before Ray Tomlinson sent the first e-mail in 1971, e-mails first originated in a program Ray Tomlinson wrote called SNDMSG. This program was popular with ARPANET's researchers and programmers as they have used it to leave messages for each other on their network computers called Digital PDP-10s.

However, SNDMSG only had a "local" function, meaning people could only leave messages for other people who are using the same computer to read those messages. Tomlinson then developed CYPNET, a file transfer protocol to add to the SNDMSG program so that the ability to send messages electronically was extended to the entire ARPANET network.

Tomlinson also used the "commercial at" symbol or more commonly known as the "at sign" (@) to refer to the message recipient's host computer. Ever since then, the "at sign" had been used in user's e-mail addresses.

E-Mail First Accepted In The 1990s

Ironically, Tomlinson's message system which had managed to effectively change the history of communication and shrink the world by making the transmission of messages and its communication easier was not thought to be a big deal during its inception. In fact, fellow programmer, Jerry Burchfiel was quoted as having said, "Don't tell anyone! This isn't what we're supposed to be working on."

While the program was developed as far back as 1971, it was not widely accepted until the 1990s with the birth of the World Wide Web. It was only when commercial users and the common people had embraced the Internet when its popularity skyrocketed. Today, it is hard to imagine school, work, even communication without using e-mail.

Ray Tomlinson Have Received Numerous Awards

The first e-mail was sent more than 40 years ago yet it is still being used today. In fact, Pingdom, a Sweden-based company that monitors the performance of websites, reported that the average number of emails sent daily was 294 billion. The longevity of Tomlinson's invention proves the enormity of his contribution not only to technology and programming but also in human communication and arguably, human connection. Now it's almost impossible to imagine a world before Ray Tomlinson sent the first e-mail in 1971.

Tomlinson had undoubtedly created a program worthy of recognition. For his contribution to computer history, the world (and the cyberspace), he had received numerous awards. In 2001, he received a lifetime achievement Webby Award from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. In the same year, he was added to the Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame. In 2004, he received the IEEE Internet Award.

Along with Martin Cooper, a pioneer in wireless communication, Tomlinson was also awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for scientific and technical research. MIT has also listed him as fourth of the top 150 innovators in the history of MIT alumni. The Internet Society in 2012 had also awarded him with a place on the Internet Hall of Fame.