Ray Tomlinson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Raymond Samuel Tomlinson
Born(1941-04-23)April 23, 1941
DiedMarch 5, 2016(2016-03-05) (aged 74)
EducationRensselaer Polytechnic Institute (BS)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MS)
OccupationComputer scientist
Years active1965–2016
Known forInvention of email
SpouseAnn Tomlinson

Raymond Samuel Tomlinson (April 23, 1941 – March 5, 2016) was an American[1][2][3][4] computer programmer who implemented the first email program on the ARPANET system, the precursor to the Internet, in 1971;[5][6][7][8] It was the first system able to send mail between users on different hosts connected to ARPANET. Previously, mail could be sent only to others who used the same computer. To achieve this, he used the @ sign to separate the user name from the name of their machine, a scheme which has been used in email addresses ever since.[9] The Internet Hall of Fame in its account of his work commented "Tomlinson's email program brought about a complete revolution, fundamentally changing the way people communicate."[10][11] He is credited with the invention of the TCP three-way handshake [12] which underlies HTTP and many other key Internet protocols.

Early life and education[edit]

Tomlinson was born[13] in Amsterdam, New York, but his family soon moved to the small, unincorporated village of Vail Mills, Broadalbin, New York.[14][15] His father Raymond Tomlinson worked in carpet mills and later worked in the grocery business. His mother Dorothy Tomlinson worked for a dry cleaner.[16] He attended Broadalbin Central School in nearby Broadalbin, New York.[17] Later he attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York where he participated in the co-op program with IBM. He received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from RPI in 1963.[18]

After graduating from RPI, he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to continue his electrical engineering education. At MIT, Tomlinson worked in the Speech Communication Group and developed an analog-digital hybrid speech synthesizer as the subject of his thesis for the master's degree in electrical engineering, which he received in 1965.[14]


In 1967, he joined the technology company of Bolt, Beranek and Newman (now BBN Technologies), where he helped develop the TENEX operating system including the ARPANET Network Control Program, implementations of Telnet, and implementations on the self-replicating programs Creeper and Reaper. He wrote a file transfer program called CPYNET to transfer files through the ARPANET.[19] Tomlinson was asked to change a program called SNDMSG, which sent messages to other users of a time-sharing computer, to run on TENEX.[20] He added code he took from CPYNET to SNDMSG so messages could be sent to users on other computers—the first email.[21]

The first email Tomlinson sent was a test. It was not preserved and Tomlinson describes it as insignificant, something like "QWERTYUIOP." This is commonly misquoted as "The first e-mail was QWERTYUIOP."[22] Tomlinson later commented that these "test messages were entirely forgettable and I have, therefore, forgotten them."[23]

At first, his email messaging system was not considered important. Its development was not a directive of his employer, with Tomlinson merely pursuing it "because it seemed like a neat idea."[14] When showing the system to a colleague, Tomlinson said "Don't tell anyone! This isn't what we're supposed to be working on."[24]

Tomlinson said he preferred "email" over "e-mail," joking in a 2010 interview that "I'm simply trying to conserve the world's supply of hyphens" and that "the term has been in use long enough to drop the hyphen."[25]


Tomlinson died at his home in Lincoln, Massachusetts, on March 5, 2016, from a heart attack. He was 74 years old.[18][14]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ "Email pioneer Ray Tomlinson dead at 74". The Sydney Morning Herald. March 6, 2016.
  2. ^ "E-mail inventor Ray Tomlinson, who popularized @ symbol, dies at 74". Ars Technica. March 6, 2016.
  3. ^ ABC News. "Inventor of Modern Email, Ray Tomlinson, Dies". ABC News.
  4. ^ Claudio Müller (March 7, 2016). "E-Mail-Pionier ist tot: Rest @ Peace, Ray Tomlinson". CHIP Online.
  5. ^ "Ray Tomlinson, email inventor and selector of @ symbol, dies aged 74". the Guardian. March 7, 2016.
  6. ^ Dante D'Orazio (March 6, 2016). "Inventor of email and savior of the @ sign, Ray Tomlinson, is dead at 74". The Verge. Vox Media.
  7. ^ "Ray Tomlinson, Inventor Of Modern Email, Dies". NPR.org. March 6, 2016.
  8. ^ "Email inventor Ray Tomlinson dies at 74". BBC News. March 6, 2016.
  9. ^ Ray Tomlinson. "The First Network Email".
  10. ^ a b c d e "Official Biography: Raymond Tomlinson". Internet Hall of Fame. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  11. ^ "Alumni/ae Notes - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)".
  12. ^ Cerf, Vinton; Dalal, Yogen; Sunshine, Carl (December 1974), RFC 675, Specification of Internet Transmission Control Protocol
  13. ^ "Ray Tomlinson obituary". the Guardian. March 14, 2016. Retrieved November 3, 2022.
  14. ^ a b c d Grimes, William (March 7, 2016). "Raymond Tomlinson, Who Put the @ Sign in Email, Is Dead at 74". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Subik, Jason (October 17, 2010). "Broadalbin native put the @ in your e-mail address". The Daily Gazette. Schenectady, NY. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  16. ^ Marquard, Bryan (March 12, 2016). "Ray Tomlinson, @ 74; pioneer of e-mail".
  17. ^ Varghese, Sam (March 7, 2016). "Email inventor Ray Tomlinson dead at 74". iTWire.
  18. ^ a b Evan Koblentz (March 5, 2016). "Email inventor Ray Tomlinson dies at 74". TechRepublic.
  19. ^ Hafner, Katie; Lyon, Matthew (1998). Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet. Simon and Schuster. p. 191. ISBN 978-0684832678.
  20. ^ "Ray Tomlinson, who sent the first e-mail, has died". The Economist. March 7, 2016.
  21. ^ Kawamoto, Dawn (March 7, 2016). "Creator Of Network Email Ray Tomlinson Dies". InformationWeek.
  22. ^ Ray Tomlinson. "Frequently Made Mistakes".
  23. ^ Mackey, Robert (May 4, 2009). "Internet Star @ Least 473 Years Old". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  24. ^ Sasha Cavender (October 5, 1998). "Legends". Forbes. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  25. ^ Pasternack, Alex (April 20, 2010). "Ray Tomlinson Sent the First Email But His Inbox Is Still a Mess". Motherboard. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  26. ^ "The Stibitz/Wilson Awards". American Computer & Robotics Museum. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  27. ^ "Raymond S. Tomlinson: Inventor of Network Electronic Mail". Alumni Hall of Fame. Rensselaer. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
  28. ^ "The fathers of the mobile phone and email, Prince of Asturias Award Laureates for Technical and Scientific Research" (Press release). Fundación Príncipe de Asturias. June 17, 2009. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved June 17, 2009.
  29. ^ "National Email Day". April 21, 2022. Retrieved January 11, 2023.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]