First Network Email sent by Ray Tomlinson
Much like the first telegraph or phone call, the first email marked an historic moment in the evolution of communication. Unfortunately, the message itself was less than earth shattering. The text of that first electronic missive consisted of "something like QWERTYUIOP."
Sent by computer engineer Ray Tomlinson in 1971, the email was simply a test message to himself. The email was sent from one computer to another computer sitting right beside it in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but it traveled via ARPANET, a network of computers that was the precursor to the Internet.
Working for Bolt Beranek and Newman (the company picked by the U.S. Defense Department to build ARPANET), Tomlinson had been fooling around with two programs called SNDMSG and READMAIL, which allowed users to leave messages for one another on the same machine. He applied the idea behind these programs to a third program called CYPNET, which allowed users to send and receive files between computers. The combined technology allowed people to send and receive files that could be appended between different machines.
Despite his groundbreaking success with email, Tomlinson is better known for introducing the "@" sign as the locator in email addresses.
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