Raymond Tomlinson, the inventor of modern email and a technological leader, has died, his employer said Sunday.
Tomlinson died Saturday, the Raytheon Co. said; the details were not immediately available.
Email existed in a limited capacity before Tomlinson in that electronic messages could be shared amid multiple people within a limited framework. But until his invention in 1971 of the first network person-to-person email, there was no way to send something to a specific person at a specific address.
Tomlinson wrote and sent the first email on the ARPANET system, a computer network that was created for the U.S. government that is considered a precursor to the Internet. Tomlinson also contributed to the network's development, among numerous other pioneering technologies in the programming world.
At the time, few people had personal computers. The popularity of personal email wouldn't take off until years later and would ultimately become an integral part of modern life.
"It wasn't an assignment at all, he was just fooling around; he was looking for something to do with ARPANET," Raytheon spokeswoman Joyce Kuzman said.
The first email was sent between two machines that were side-by-side. Tomlinson said in a company interview that the test messages were "entirely forgettable and I have, therefore, forgotten them." But when he was satisfied that the program seemed to work, he announced it via his own invention by sending a message to co-workers explaining how to use it.