In 1971, programmer Raymond Tomlinson sat at his desk, went to his computer, and clicked “Send”. Without knowing it, I was switching to communications: the first e-mail -Email- of the story had been sent.
It happens that, this 2021, 50 years have passed since that moment in which, without even being connected to what we know today as the web, but to ARPANET -the embryo of our current internet- the first email was sent (and received).
Today they are sent 320 billion per day.
Born in New York in 1941, Tomlinson attended America’s oldest research university, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the age of 22.
Raymond Tomlinson, the inventor of email
In 1971 an American programmer switched to communications forever (Source Technogeiser, in English)
He continued his studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and obtained a specialization in electrical engineering in 1965.
With that knowledge, he began working as a computer engineer at Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN Technologies), the company contracted by the United States Department of Defense to build ARPANET.
The first mail was sent from ARPANET. YouTube photo
How did Tomilnson come up with this new technology? “There was no really good way to leave messages to people. The phone worked to an extent, but someone had to be there to take the call. And if it wasn’t the person you wanted, it was an administrative assistant or an answering machine or something. That was the kind of mechanism you had to go through to leave a message, so everyone knew.They clung to the idea that he could leave messages on the computer “, he told The Verge in 2012.
Initial idea: internal communication
Initially, email was seen as a quick way for ARPANET programmers and researchers to stay in touch, especially targeting those in whom cannot be trusted to answer their phones.
But Tomlinson raised the usefulness of computers to such a new level that they soon became accessible to the mass public. A great idea, judging by the results.
Emails were downloaded to computers, today they work “in the cloud.” YouTube photo
It was he who decided to use the now ubiquitous symbol “@” to separate the recipient’s name from its location, to indicate that the user was “at” someone else host instead of being “local”.
The first historical email to a computer that was in the same room as him so he could check if the software worked. Tomlinson was asked the obvious question more than once: What did that email say?
To the disappointment of many people, he does not remember: “The test messages were completely forgettable and therefore I have forgotten them.” But it does throw a clue: “It’s probably something like ‘QWERTYIOP‘”, Which is the most“ handy ”key line layout.
The term e-mail, which responds to “electronic mail” to differentiate it from “physical” mail, was not invented by him, but this came many years later and at a commercial level, with the popularization of the use of the web.
E-mail, the passage from physical mail to electronic mail. Photo: Shutterstock
Today, everyone says “mail” or, in Spanish, simply “mail.”
But Tomlinson’s input was key in the development of communications as we know it today, as he became a co-author of RFC-561 in 1973, a standard that defined several of the email fields we still use today as the Affair, the date and the sender (“From”).
An ultra massive medium, but also dangerous
Since 2004, when Google launched its first version of Gmail and later in 2011 when Microsoft began to standardize the use of Outlook on the web, emails are more “in the cloud” than on our own computers, as it used to be. In the beginings.
Today, email remains the most widely used asynchronous means of communication in the world. In times where immediacy is valued but it can also generate anxiety problems and, paradoxically, communication problems, the mail is valued above all at the work level.
However, and unfortunately, it raises cybersecurity problems.
“According to the Verizon Report on Data Breach Investigations 2021, the rate of malicious emails using successful phishing increased by 36% compared to 25% the previous year”, Explained to Clarín Fortinet, a company that is dedicated to cybersecurity services such as firewalls, antivirus and prevention of intrusions in personal data.
“Ransomware use doubled to 10% in leaks compared to the previous year, and even incorporated extortion tactics in which attackers first exfiltrate sensitive data before encrypting files within the victim’s environment and they use possession of those data to exert more pressure”They added.
The most common scam has to do with malicious emails that steal data. “The login credentials obtained through malicious emails are used by cybercriminals as a relatively easy way to enter an organization’s environment through the privileged access of a legitimate user,” they add from Fortinet.
Emails sent per day (expressed in billions)
The strategy is always similar to “throwing a net in the ocean”: some will fall. About 58% of what was obtained by the threat actors were legitimate credentials, which is a path of least resistance for cybercriminals, they explain.
“Although email is 50 years old, it is still young from the point of view of communications history. Going forward, organizations must ensure that these communications are protected to ensure robust security and data integrity for years to come”, They concluded.
For this reason, the rule is always clear: if an email is received from an unknown sender, when in doubt, it must always be deleted.
Tomlinson probably never imagined this kind of use of emails.
The programmer continued to work at BBN, the company that made ARPANET, and contributed to computer design.
In 2012 he entered the Internet Hall of Fame.
He died of a heart attack on March 5, 2016.