From the L.A. Times

Raymond Tomlinson created the first network person-to-person email in 1971. He chose the @ symbol to connect the user name with the destination address; it has now become a cultural icon.

Raymond Tomlinson, the inventor of modern email and a technological leader, has died. Tomlinson died Saturday, the Raytheon Co. said. He was 74.

Email existed in a limited capacity before Tomlinson in that electronic messages could be shared amid multiple people within a limited framework. But until his invention in 1971 of the first network person-to-person email, there was no way to send something to a specific person at a specific address.

Tomlinson wrote and sent the first email on the ARPANET system, a computer network that was created for the U.S. government that is considered a precursor to the Internet. Tomlinson also contributed to the network’s development, among numerous other pioneering technologies in the programming world.

“It wasn’t an assignment at all, he was just fooling around; he was looking for something to do with ARPANET,” Raytheon spokeswoman Joyce Kuzman said.

“I’m often asked ‘Did I know what I was doing?'” Tomlinson said when he was inducted 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.”

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