Computer engineer, Ray Tomlinson invented internet based email in late 1971. Under ARPAnet several major innovations occurred: email (or electronic mail), the ability to send simple messages to another person across the network (1971). Ray Tomlinson worked as a computer engineer for Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), the company hired by the United States Defense Department to build the first Internet in 1968.
Ray Tomlinson was experimenting with a popular program he wrote called SNDMSG that the ARPANET programmers and researchers were using on the network computers (Digital PDP-10s) to leave messages for each other. SNDMSG was a "local" electronic message program. You could only leave messages on the computer that you were using for other persons using that computer to read. Tomlinson used a file transfer protocol that he was working on called CYPNET to adapt the SNDMSG program so it could send electronic messages to any computer on the ARPANET network.
The @ Symbol
Ray Tomlinson chose the @ symbol to tell which user was "at" what computer. The @ goes inbetween the user's login name and the name of his/her host computer.
The first email was sent between two computers that were actually sitting besides each other. However, the ARPANET network was used as the connection between the two. The first email message was "QWERTYUIOP".
Ray Tomlinson is quoted as saying he invented email,"Mostly because it seemed like a neat idea." No one was asking for email.
Historical Timeline for Ray Tomlinson :