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Ray Tomlinson, founder of modern email, dies aged 74

The man who designed the first person-to-person online messaging system has died, his employer confirmed. The invention is credited as being the prototype for the modern email.

Ray Tomlinson, the father of the modern email, died over the weekend aged 74.

Tomlinson was an employer of a tech company later acquired by Raytheon when, in 1971, he sent the first email on the ARPANET system, a US government computer network seen as the prototype for the Internet. Though a system had already been developed that allowed electronic messages to be sent between groups of people, Tomlinson's invention was the first to allow individuals to send messages to other individuals.

Raytheon spokeswoman Joyce Kuzman told the Associated Press that Tomlinson was simply "fooling around" with the ARPANET system when he developed the technology, and it wasn't until years later - after personal computers became a staple of every household - that email caught on.

'No idea what the impact would be'

Among Tomlinson's accomplishments was his pioneering use of the "@" icon as the symbol used to connect a user with his or her email destination. So renowned has the "@" symbol become that it was added to the Museum of Modern Art's Department of Architecture and Design collection in 2010.

Tomlinson himself was humble about his accomplishments.

"I'm often asked 'Did I know what I was doing?'" Tomlinson said in a speech during his induction into the Internet Hall of Fame. "The answer is: Yeah I knew exactly what I was doing. I just had no notion whatsoever about what the ultimate impact would be."

A graduate of Rensselear Polytechnic Institute and the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, Tomlinson died on Saturday.

blc/msh (AP, AFP)

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