In 1972, Ray Tomlinson sent the very first e-mail on the Arpanet network, the ancestor of the Internet. This programmer laid the first stone of the digital revolution. More than thirty years after its infancy, a Google engineer, Paul Buccheit, created Gmail.

The engineers, programmers and technicians who worked on the Arpanet project communicated with each other by leaving fixed messages on their computers. These were kind of memos, simply meant to communicate information to the next user.

Ray Tomlinson was working on a project (CPYNET) that aimed to copy data to computers connected to the nascent network. He had the brilliant idea of integrating the concept of digital messaging in the network, through two programs intended for sending and receiving electronic mail (SNDMSG and READMAIL). The first e-mail message sent contained only a single string of characters: “QWERTYUIOP”.

Ray Tomlinson is also the originator of the use of the at sign. He was looking for an existing sign, but little used, capable of helping to differentiate the name of the person and that of his server.

Gmail: the archetype of modern email

In 2004, the Mountain View company launched Gmail. Created at the instigation of in-house engineer Paul Buccheit, its modern and refined interface was a surprise. It contrasted radically with the usually austere aspect of traditional messaging.

Free, with an optimized search function and an incredible storage capacity for the time (1 GB, or 500 times more than competitors), Gmail offered real advantages.

Today, Google Mail offers many options to suit consumer lifestyles and requirements. The confidential mode allows for example the protection of the information contained in an e-mail, by prohibiting any transfer, copy or printing. If Gmail remains very popular, other free mailboxes represent interesting alternatives.

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