This Is Why We Have @ In Our Emails

From all the symbols in the keyboard, why do we use the ‘@’ in our emails? Well, there is a pretty good reason for it, but before answering, let’s talk shortly about the history of the emails.

Most of us think that emails appeared in the 1990s along with the internet. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth though. Emails have actually been around since the 1960s.

What? How is that possible? (the article continues after the ad)

Computer scientists had exchanged messages on machines many many years before the internet. For example, in MIT there was this huge computer were a lot of people could remotely log in to (it was called Compatible Time-Sharing System, CTSS) and exchange information by storing files on the computer’s discs. In 1961, a guy named Tom Van Vleck, developed a “mail” command that essentially let logged users of this system send electronic messages to each other. Don’t get confused: these messages didn’t travel across a network, instead they remained in the computer.

After seeing this evolution, Ray Tomlinson, the man who eventually put the ‘@’ in e-mail, went on to develop his own message sharing program. But because he considered the previous messages programs to be rather complicated, he decided to change the way the software operates. Thus, he developed the “SNDMSG” command (short for “send message”) and it used addresses that depended on the ‘@’ symbol. Much like today, the @ symbol sat between the name of the user you were trying to reach and the place where you could reach them — in this case, their host computer.

But why @?

Because it’s a symbol for a preposition, and it will never be confused for any part of our actual names. Tomlinson explains in an interview to Wired:

“I looked at the keyboard, and I thought: ‘What can I choose here that won’t be confused with a username?’” Tomlinson remembers. “If every person had an ‘@’ sign in their name, it wouldn’t work too well. But they didn’t. They did use commas and slashes and brackets. Of the remaining three or four characters, the ‘@’ sign made the most sense. It denoted where the user was … at. Excuse my English.”

In 2012, Ray Tomlinson entered the Internet Hall of Fame, alongside pioneers Vint Cerf, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and Van Jacobson.

If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: Why Telephones Have The * And # Buttons?

Photo: Pexels

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