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Who Invented Email?

The history of email began with Ray Tomlinson in 1971. The program was created while he was working for the US government, specifically ARPANET (the future Internet).

Tomlinson’s Work
Tomlinson was working for the United States Defense Department in 1968. He was a computer engineer at the time. He started by developing an application called SNDMSG. Its purpose was to let ARPANET users relay messages. Originally, SNDMSG was local. That is, the messages could be sent only to users of that same computer.

Tomlinson used the CYPNET (a transfer protocol) on the SNDMSG application. This allowed SNDMSG to send and receive email to any computer within the ARPANET network. This was how the history of email began.

The First Email Message
Tomlinson utilized the @ symbol for a simple reason: it would enable him to know which individual was at the system. Back them, the @ was inserted between the computer host and the user name. The first email Tomlinson sent was QWERTYUIOP.

Early Use of Email
Following Tomlinson’s invention, the service started to be used in the ARPANET. It was connected to the FTP (File Transfer Protocol). The FTP would eventually be replaced by the SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). FTP is still sometimes used today when downloading files off the World Wide Web.

However it is important to note that email is much older than the Internet. Email was being used at ARPANET in the 1970s, long before the Net came into being.
Other Email Prototypes

The history of email shows that MIT had already demonstrated its potential back in 1961 with Compatible Time Sharing System (CTSS). This technology permitted users to gather and share files online. The other prototypes permitted communication on the mainframe.

However it was the ARPANET system that laid the foundation for the modern email system. In the 1980s one of the most popular email programs was Sendmail, which was used on UNIX systems.

In 1988, MCI Mail became the first commercial email program to be sold. NFSNET was used to connect MCI Mail. In 1989, the service was also used by CompuServe. This was eventually followed by other online services.

Email Becomes Widespread
It was in the early 1990s when the history of email reached its critical point. The emergence of the World Wide Web made it more accessible to users. Online services like America Online and Delphi started offering email services to people.

Eventually, users realized the benefits of using it to communicate with others. It was much faster than snail mail and it was free.

As email grew in popularity, the services exploded. Email programs like Eudora appeared, making it easier to sort out these messages. Soon, other companies like Microsoft, Yahoo and Google began offering it too.

Although video conferencing and chat are commonplace, email remains the primary means by which Net users communicate. In both home and business, its value cannot be underestimated.

Those who study the history of email will see how quickly it evolved. Originally intended for military and scientific usage, it’s become indispensable in the IT age.