The man who invented e-mail

Ray Tomilson is the man who invented e-mail. Back in 1971 he was working in a team of programmers who were working on a program called SNDMSG (‘send a message’) that allowed users of the same computer to leave messages for one another – a sort of single-computer version of an e-mail system. They were working on the ARPANET, which was set up by the US Defense Department’s Advanced Research Project Agency to connect different research computers, and which later developed into the internet.

Ray wanted to distinguish between messages that were headed out onto the network and those The man who invented e-mail that were addressed to users in the same office. He studied the keyboard for a symbol that didn’t occur naturally in people’s names and that wasn’t a digit. He chose @ symbol to indicate that the user was ‘at’ some other distant hostrather than being local – and @ symbol is the only preposition on the keyboard. Before this, the purpose of the @ sign (in English) was to indicate a unit price (for example, 10 items @ $1.95). At the time Ray says he gave it only ’30 to 40 seconds of thought’.

To test the program he sent a message to another The man who invented e-mail computer. The message was something quite forgettable, and he has now forgotten what it was. Electronic mail is now known as e-mail or email. Domain names (apple.com, cambridge.org, etc.) were not used until 1984. Before that each host was only known by its IP (Internet protocol) address number.

Ray’s ideas changed the world and made a lot of others rich, but not him. ‘Innovations is sometimes rewarded’, he says modestly, ‘but not this innovation!’

Leo Jones, Making progress, Cambridge University Press

I. Find synonyms from the text to the following explanations:

to differentiate; the first part of a website The man who invented e-mail’s address, which usually begins with ‘www.’ and ends with ‘com’, ‘.org’, ’uk’, or other letters that show which country the website is from.

II. True or False?

  1. The symbol @ meant the only preposition on the keyboard before Ray started to use it.
  2. It took Ray too much time to decide to use @.
  3. He has forgotten his first message.
  4. Ray’s idea made him very rich.

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