Email (or e-mail)
is actually an abbreviation for electronic mail. It is a way to
write, send, and receive messages using electronic communication systems
such as the Internet. Did you know email was invented in 1971?
While many great inventions happened a long time ago, email is
Ray Tomlinson, a computer engineer, was working for a company that
was creating a way to have computers talk to each other. This is a called
a “network,” and until the early 1970’s, computers couldn’t
communicate with each other.
Mr. Tomlinson was working in Cambridge Massachusetts on a
project called ARPANET, which stands for Advanced Research Projects
Mr. Tomlinson was also working on a program that could send files
between computers. This program was called CPYNET (copy network). He had
the idea of putting the message programs into CPYNET, so that messages
could be sent to users on different computers.
The first message sent was QWERTYUIOP, which is the second row on
the keyboard. That was used as a test. The next message was sent to
introduce this new way of sending messages. This was the first email
Tomlinson chose the @ symbol so that his program knew where to send
the message. The @ would go between the users name and the name of the
computer they used. We still use it today.
At first, Tomlinson didn’t tell anybody about his new invention,
because he wasn’t supposed to be working on that and thought he might
get in trouble. Tomlinson said he invented email because he thought it
was a neat idea. Tomlinson never got rich from his invention. His
reward is being known as the inventor of email.
The first email program available to the public was called
“Eudora.” It was written in 1988 by Steve Dorner at the University of
After Tomlinson’s invention, only computers that were networked
could use email. That’s why for a very long time, only businesses had email.
Home computers didn’t exist until the early 1980’s. That was
before the Internet, so the way home computers could send email was by dialing
into the same large computer and swapping messages.
The Internet allowed home computers to be networked, and the
Internet didn’t exist until the early 1990’s. It wasn’t until home
computers became cheaper and the Internet became faster (and cheaper) that
home email become very popular. Today, there are 87 million people using
Because email is still relatively young, it will change just like other past inventions such as the telephone and the automobile. In the future, instead or reading email, you might be able to hear the email in the sender’s voice or see and hear the sender.
Dutty, Dantry. "Ray Tomlinson - Inventor of e-mail." Darwin. 15 December 2004 <http://www.darwinmag.com/read/010102/buzz_mover.html>.
Heinz. "The First Email
Message." About. 17 December 2004 <http://email.about.com/cs/emailhistory/a/first_email.htm>.
Copyrighted animated images of email and @ symbol from "Microsoft Office Online" <http://office.microsoft.com/clipart/default.aspx?lc=en-us&cag=1> (October-March, 2004-2005). Clip art available only to licensed users for non-commercial purposes.