Listen on NPR:
When was the last time you actually set pen to paper and mailed off a personal letter to someone? It’s probably been awhile — and the man to blame is Ray Tomlinson.
Back in 1971, Tomlinson was a young engineer at the Boston firm of Bolt, Beranek and Newman — known today as BBN Technologies. He’d been given a task: Figure out something interesting to do with ARPANET, the newborn computer network that was the predecessor of the modern-day Internet.
“We were working on ways in which humans and computers could interact,” he tells NPR’s Guy Raz. But instead, Tomlinson started tinkering with the interaction — or lack of it — between distant colleagues who didn’t answer their phones. He eventually found a way to send messages from one computer to another — inventing the system we now know as e-mail.
Interview on NPR’s All Things Considered