Apr 17, 2006

Historical reference about e-mail

E-mail was created in 1971 by Ray Tomlinson. At that time there was a message system in every computer (which was shared by several users), but there wasn’t a mail program per se that allowed a user to send messages to another.

In those days we placed in a predetermined directory a file containing the message we wanted others to read. When the recipient wanted to know if he/she had mail, he/she had to check that directory. It was like a bulletin board, but inside the computer.

Tomlinson created a program that allowed sending these messages from one computer to another. Since it was necessary to separate the name of the user from the machine sending the mail, he selected “at” (@) as the division between the user’s name and the computer where the mail box was located.

The symbol “@” means literally “in that place”, so we could say “I am in Caracas” as “I am @ Caracas”. My e-mail address, means the mailbox of “jucar” is located at the “” web domain.

The name e-mail (a contraction of “electronic mail”) comes from its analogy with regular mail: Both serve to send and receive messages, using “intermediate mailboxes” (located in the servers) where messages are stored until the recipients retrieve them.