The history of email: The 70s

The history of email

70s: The beginning

Mail network

It all started back in 1971 when the young American Programmer Ray Tomlinson invented network mail: A program that allowed people sitting on different computer terminals to send each other simple text messages. At the time, Tomlinson was working for BNN – a company who was working on designing ARPANET: The first wide area network and the predecessor to, what we know today as; the internet. Tomlinson made it possible to communicate between different servers through the use of the @-symbol. Even though Tomlinson invented network mail, his invention stayed hidden to the public for years.


It was not until 1978, when Shiva Ayyadurai, a 14-year-old high school student from New Jersey, made a new software version of the system – but with a user-friendly interface – that email, as we know it today, was actually invented. Unlike Tomlinson, Ayyadurai copyrighted email, which legally provided him with the ownership of the invention.

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