Email turns half a century

The email is on its anniversary: ​​this 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of its first appearance, the moment when a computer scientist sent a message from one computer to another for the first time and that would automatically become a historical milestone.

It was American programmer Ray Tomlinson, who worked for Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), who sent the first email in history from a Massachusetts laboratory, in 1971. Two years earlier, that company had developed the ARPANET system (acronym in English for Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), considered the prelude to the Internet.

Previously, In 1958, the Department of Defense of the USA ARPA program had started (Advanced Research Projects Agency) in order to create a communications system that would allow them to take advantage of the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

ARPANET was a computer network for sending military data in which Tomlinson worked with a team of programmers. This engineer adapted the SNDMSG technology, an application that allowed messages to be sent through ARPANET between users of the same device, and expanded it so that they could be sent through a wider network of connected devices.

He did so thanks to a complementary program that also bore his signature, READMAIL. This was used to read the messages sent by SNDMSG. He also created an address system by which he added the user name in front of a previously unused symbol, the at sign (@), followed by the name of the computer in question.

Although it was only a test, Tomlinson achieved what became a milestone in technology. Legend has it that the message he chose to launch what we now know as email was the upper letters of the English keyboard, ‘QWERTYUIOP’. However, this computer scientist, who died in 2016, could never remember exactly what he wrote, as indicated Google in a statement in which he celebrates this fact.

Because @?

Because it was a novel idea that went beyond the users of a single computer, Tomlinson devised a recognition system by which the name of the user who sent those text messages was indicated.

In order to give these directories an identity, he established a system by which the name of these users who interacted on the one hand and, on the other, the name of the team that received these messages was used.

To separate both terms, used a rare symbol that was part of these keyboards: the at sign. Until then, this symbol was not part of computer language, so I was sure that it could be useful in this area and would not be misleading.

Birth of Gmail

Today, it would be difficult to imagine a communications system that lacked something as helpful as email. In this sense, the most widespread courier service is Gmail, provided by the Google search engine for free.

As the company recalled on the occasion of this anniversary, three decades later a Google engineer named Paul Buchheit began experimenting with the functionalities that email could offer and how problems of structure and order could be overcome.

“My email was a mess. Important messages were buried and conversations were messed up. I couldn’t always access my email because it was stuck on my computer and the web interface was useless,” he wrote in a blog post. of Google.

In order to offer greater functionality when searching for messages, Buchheit created Gmail as an email program based on the browser through which these emails could be accessed in an orderly manner.

A) Yes, Gmail introduced its beta version on April 1, 2004 after several years of work, with a quick search function that originally had 1 GB of storage.

Despite the fact that currently that capacity is scarce and now offers up to 15 GB of free storage (expandable with different payment rates), the inboxes at that time had a much lower space than Google’s proposal.

Over time, this storage space has grown, as has the weight of files, photos, recordings or documents. Its design is very different from the original and now includes various functions, such as Google Meets for scheduling meetings or creating shared task lists, among others.


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