smithsonianmag:

The Accidental History of the @ Symbol

The symbol’s modern obscurity ended in 1971, when a computer scientist named Ray Tomlinson was facing a vexing problem: how to connect people who programmed computers with one another. At that time, each programmer was typically connected to a particular mainframe machine via a phone connection and a teletype machine—basically a keyboard with a built-in-printer. But these computers weren’t connected to one another, a shortcoming the U.S. government sought to overcome when it hired BBN Technologies, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, company Tomlinson worked for, to help develop a network called Arpanet, forerunner of the Internet.

Tomlinson’s challenge was how to address a message created by one person and sent through Arpanet to someone at a different computer. The address needed an individual’s name, he reasoned, as well as the name of the computer, which might service many users. And the symbol separating those two address elements could not already be widely used in programs and operating systems, lest computers be confused.

Tomlinson’s eyes fell on the @, poised above “P” on his Model 33 teletype. - Continue reading at Smithsonian.com.

Illustration: Erik Marinovich

Ed note: Here is the history of the exclamation point!

& the ampersand!

(this post was reblogged from smithsonianmag)

Notes

  1. evildoodle reblogged this from idroolinmysleep
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    Arpanet tho. That’s so much nicer to say.
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    cultura general
  19. synaestheticworld reblogged this from theatlantic
  20. g-isabellae reblogged this from smithsonianmag and added:
    Reblogging for the history of the exclamation point, because shout poles are my friend.
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    The Accidental History of the @ Symbol The symbol’s modern obscurity ended in 1971, when a computer scientist named Ray...
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  28. rel-right reblogged this from brooklynmutt and added:
    man I did not know this before
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  31. brispyedges reblogged this from smithsonianmag and added:
    I get fascinated by the oddest things. Good night though folks, I got working to do come morning
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    The Accidental History of the @ Symbol The symbol’s modern obscurity ended in 1971, when a computer scientist named Ray...
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