Email has been around for many decades, but only used as the way we know it since 1972. Of course, many changes have occurred, but it was during the early ’70s that Ray Tomlinson, a contractor for ARPANET, chose to use the @ sign for email to denote the user was @ a particular computer. This method turned out to be a good one and it is the method we all use today. Everyone’s email address starts with their name @ the name of their computer. Pretty amazing that an idea from that long ago is still used today in a world where last month’s technology is passé.
In the 1970s, it was much faster to pick up the phone and call someone than it was to try and contact them via email simply because very few people had it and those who did were mostly individuals working for technology companies. Today, there are more than 600 million people around the world who have an email address and because of this email marketing has exploded. It’s the perfect way to contact hundreds of thousands of people with the click of a mouse.
Email became popular with the military first, simply because it was encouraged by ARPANET. Then, Larry Roberts decided to help his boss sort his email and created email folders. This was huge and by 1975 there was even software developed that would organize email. Then, in 1976 there were even commercial packages available. ARPANET really benefitted from this because by ’76 more than 75% of their traffic was due to email.
Email was the key to changing Arpanet to Internet simply because email was not something that appealed just to the military or big businesses, it appealed to everyone pretty much everywhere. The actual developments in email and how it evolved are difficult to pinpoint simply because the advanced were so fast and happened so quickly that each new one obscured the previous one. As a result, most people assume email is this magic and recent development that is based on the Internet when it is actually older and has been around for longer.
One of the biggest advances in the early days was to allow individuals to compose an email without being connected to the Internet. There is an option on Microsoft Outlook for this and the early method was similar. This simply allowed people to avoid high telephone charges by composing their mails offline and then connecting just to send them. This was more cost effective and easier for people to use.