Email inventor Ray Tomlinson dead -- will his invention die soon too?


The inventor of email, Ray Tomlinson, has passed away at the age of 74. Yes, the man who changed the way we communicate, is no longer with us. His invention was revolutionary, essentially killing the written letter and causing heartache to the United States Postal Service.

As great as his invention was, and continues to be, it is starting to get long in the tooth. In other words, alternative communication services, like text messaging, iMessage, Slack, Telegram, and more, could possibly lead to the death of email. Will email soon leave our lives?

"In 1967, he joined the legendary research and development company Bolt Beranek and Newman (now Raytheon BBN Technologies). At BBN, he helped develop the TENEX operating system, including implementations of the ARPANET and TELNET protocols. In 1971, he developed ARPANET's first application for network email by combining the SNDMSG and CPYNET programs, allowing messages to be sent to users on other computers. He chose the @ sign to separate local from global emails in the mailing address. Person to person network email was born and user@host became the standard for email addresses, as it remains today", according to The Internet Hall of Fame.

The website further explains, "Tomlinson's email program brought about a complete revolution, fundamentally changing the way people communicate, including the way businesses, from huge corporations to tiny mom-and-pop shops, operate and the way millions of people shop, bank, and keep in touch with friends and family, whether they are across town or across oceans. Today, tens of millions of email-enabled devices are in use every day. Email remains the most popular application, with over a billion and a half users spanning the globe and communicating across the traditional barriers of time and space".

While email did change the world for the better, there are definitely some weak points. Of course, one of the biggest is spam -- there is no telling how many Viagra and Cialis advertisements have flooded inboxes across the globe.

The other downside, is the user's attachment to a service. It is not possible to port an email address to a different provider like you can with a cell phone provider. Sign up for a service such as Gmail, and you are stuck there -- the only way to switch is to start new and alert all of your contacts of the new address -- a huge pain point. Buying your own domain and not depending on a third party is a way to maintain control, however.

Despite the negatives of email, it is overwhelmingly a positive thing. It is rare to have an invention touch so many people, but Tomlinson's work did exactly that. While email itself may not be long for this world (although I hope it will be), Tomlinson's memory will forever be a part of human history.

What is your fondest email memory? Tell me in the comments.

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