Dave Crocker remembers Internet e-mail creator Ray Tomlinson in a response to Katharine Mieszkowski's "E-mail Is Broken."

Published October 17, 2003 7:30PM (EDT)

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Katharine Mieszkowski's article on the difficulties of dealing with spam does an interesting job of showing the views of four different people who have worked on e-mail.

I need to clarify one point about my own work, to make sure that the inventor of Internet mail gets due credit for changing the world. That would be Ray Tomlinson, a researcher at Bolt Beranek and Newman in Cambridge, Mass.

In 1971 he took an e-mail system that worked on a single machine and made it talk to a similar machine. That type of system was popular around the computer science community, so e-mail use spread very quickly. However, we did not get a formal standard until 1977, RFC 733, which I coauthored and then revised in 1982. The revision was done while I was a graduate student with Dave Farber.

I should note that I think the situation with e-mail spam is very bad, but that e-mail remains extremely useful. Very frustrating, but still very useful. The challenge is to remove -- or at least greatly reduce -- the cause of the frustration, without removing the utility.

-- Dave Crocker

By Salon Staff

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