Ray Tomlinson Biography

Raymond Tomlinson was an American computer programmer who was for long credited as the inventor of the email. This biography of Raymond Tomlinson provides detailed information about his childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: April 23, 1941

Nationality: American

Famous: Inventors Computer Engineers

Died At Age: 74

Sun Sign: Taurus

Also Known As: Томлинсон, Рэй

Born in: Amsterdam, New York, U.S.

Famous as: Inventor of the First Email System

Died on: March 5, 2016

place of death: Lincoln, Massachusetts, U.S.

U.S. State: New Yorkers

discoveries/inventions: Inventor Of The First E-mail System

More Facts

education: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

awards: IEEE Internet Award

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Raymond Tomlinson was an American computer programmer who was for long credited as the inventor of the email. He implemented the first email program on the ARPANET system in the early 1970s and was internationally known for inventing the email. However, following his death in early 2016, a controversy erupted over who actually invented the email with entrepreneur and innovator VA Shiva Ayyadurai claiming to have actually created it. But it is well accepted that it was Tomlinson who innovated the usage of the “@” sign to separate the user name from the name of their machine, an idea which was later adapted for forming email addresses. Born and raised in New York, he attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy and graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. He then proceeded to further his education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for his master’s degree. He then took up a job with Bolt Beranek and Newman (now Raytheon BBN Technologies) where he played a major role in the development of the TENEX operating system including ARPANET Network Control Program and TELNET implementations. It was during his stint there that he created a program to send messages to other users of a time-sharing computer.

Childhood & Early Life
  • He was appointed by the technology company of Bolt, Beranek and Newman (now BBN Technologies) as a computer engineer in 1967. There he helped to develop the TENEX operating system.
  • The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), an early packet switching network was a part of the TENEX operating system which also included TELNET implementations. Tomlinson, a pioneering computer genius, wrote a file transfer program called CPYNET to transfer files through the ARPANET.
  • During this period, a lot of developments were taking place in computer technology and networking. His employers asked him to work on SNDMSG which was an early electronic mail program which was used to send messages to other users of a time-sharing computer. He was told to change the program so that it could run on TENEX.
  • Tomlinson extended the program by adding code which he took from CPYNET to SNDMSG to create a version that enabled sending messages to users on other computers accessible over the ARPANET. He innovated the use of the “@” sign to separate the user name from the name of their machine.
  • His message sending innovation, launched in 1971, is generally believed to be the first email that was ever sent. The text of the first email Tomlinson sent was a test, so it was not preserved. According to his own accounts, it was a very forgettable message not worth remembering.
  • Tomlinson’s email program revolutionized the world of communication. His email software became widely popular and over the years email became one of the most used forms of communication for people all over the world.
  • In addition he also played a leading role in developing the required services for email, including setting a standard format for email messages, and designing a tool for creating and reading email. He participated in a meeting to enhance FTP to support email which was used until 1982 before being replaced by SMTP.
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Major Works
  • Raymond Tomlinson is widely credited as the inventor of email. In 1971 he updated an existing utility called SNDMSG so that it could copy messages over the network and sent a message from one Digital Equipment Corporation DEC-10 computer to another DEC-10. This message is regarded as the first email ever sent.
Awards & Achievements
  • In 2000, he was honored with the George R. Stibitz Computer Pioneer Award from the American Computer Museum (with the Computer Science Department of Montana State University).
  • He received a Webby Award from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences for lifetime achievement in 2001.
  • In 2012, Tomlinson was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Raymond Tomlinson died on March 5, 2016 in Lincoln, Massachusetts from a heart attack. He was 74.
  • Following his death, VA Shiva Ayyadurai, an American inventor of Indian origin, has claimed that it was he, and not Tomlinson who actually invented the email.

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Ray Tomlinson

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