Email is much older than ARPANet or the Internet. It was never invented; it evolved from very simple beginnings.
Electronic mail, also known as email or e-mail, is a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients.
Early email was just a small advance on what we know these days as a file directory - it just put a message in another user's directory in a spot where they could see it when they logged in. Simple as that. Just like leaving a note on someone's desk.
Ever since US programmer Ray Tomlinson sent the first email 40 years ago, the new communication tool has taken the world by storm, but it took another 20 years or so to reach the Indian shores, Indian scientists recall. Computer engineer, Ray Tomlinson invented internet based email in late 1971.
“In October 1971, Tomlinson wrote a software and was able to transfer a message from one computer to another, making it the first networked email, much before the advent of what we now know as Internet,” Sugata Sanyal, former professor of computer science, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, said.
Probably the first email system of this type was MAILBOX, used at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1965. Another early program to send messages on the same computer was called SNDMSG.
Tomlinson’s ‘invention’ came while improving a program called SNDMSG, which was in use since 1960s, that allows a user to compose, address, and send a message to other users’ mailboxes in a single computer.
Ray Tomlinson chose the @ symbol to tell which user was "at" what computer. The @ goes inbetween the user's login name and the name of his/her host computer.
Modern email operates across the Internet or other computer networks. Some early email systems required that the author and the recipient both be online at the same time, in common with instant messaging. Today's email systems are based on a store-and-forward model.
Email servers accept, forward, deliver and store messages. Neither the users nor their computers are required to be online simultaneously; they need connect only briefly, typically to an email server, for as long as it takes to send or receive messages.