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Heros of the Internet

For once this isn't a mad theory although the mad theories on this site do in part owe an awful lot to the people listed here as without them you probably wouldn't be reading this.

I mean the people who put the @ into e-mail, decided they wanted to share pictures and text or were there in the background steering the whole ship making sure that something came from the chaos.

I'm slowly adding to these pages, but if you have anyone you think should be included, see the contact link on the side.

Editor of the RFC
Who invented e-mail

Jonathan B. Postel - Editor of the techie notes

We start our list with someone its very likely you've never heard of - Jonathan Postel. Actually I'd never heard of him either until today, but from what I can gather he is one of the people who gave us the RFC.

OK, I can see you're now looking really confused! :)

RFC stands for Request For Comments and is effectively a working draft of any new internet standard from TCP and IP which get information around to HTTP, POP3, SMTP, BGP, FTP and well everything else that I can't remember off hand. Once an RFC has been bounced around the bods it eventually becomes a standards track RFC.

The RFC's are updated by the RFC editor and from the late 1960's until October 1998 when Jonathan Postel suddenly died he was the RFC Editor and therefore the guy ultimately responsible for keeping order in the only place that the entire world co-operates. (Oh and yes he did have a beard!)

Sidenote: For anyone thinking, hang on the Internet only started in the 1970's, well you'd be right but before that was ARPANET [really cheesy quote time]

ARPANET - It's the Net Jim, but not as we know it! ;-)


As with most of the things that will appear here you probably take the @ in e-mail for granted. However have you ever wondered - "why an @"?

Theres no mystical meaning about the @ symbol in the computer world and no real reason why a * ! $ ; , - or practically any other symbol couldn't be used but sometime back in 1971 the @ appeared in e-mail.

Now this isn't e-mail as we know it today....we're not talking of sending an e-postcard to your Aunt Jane in LA in 0.4 seconds. Back in those days mailboxes were restricted to a single machine - actually it was about as useful as leaving post-it notes on your computer as the messages could only be stored on the local machine, but just a little more secure.

However things were a changing in a company called BBN who created the thing called ARPANET (see links in the post above). Ray Tomlinson from BBN was playing around with connecting all 15 nodes of ARPANET (yes 15!) with a protocol called CYPNET when he had the brilliant idea of hooking the mail program to CYPNET and flash, bang, wollop he created what is today known as e-mail!

Now of course there had to be a way to distinguish whether the e-mail was for the local user or a remote user so Tomlinson basically thought "hmm...the user is at another location" - hey presto, we have the @

If you want the full depth report on how e-mail started, it's in the Internet Archives. Unfortunately the site pretext.com which ran the article seems to have disappeared.

Back to mad theories....

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Last Updated: 19th April 2008