Strindberg Project

Why did you choose the at-sign?

By Ray Tomlinson

The primary reason was that it made sense. at signs didn't appear in names so there would be no ambiguity about where the separation between login name and host name occurred. (Of course, this last notion is now refuted by the proliferation of products, services, slogans, etc. incorporating the at sign.) The at sign also had no significance in any editors that ran on TENEX. I was later reminded that the Multics time-sharing system used the at sign as its line-erase character. This caused a fair amount of grief in that community of users. Multics used IBM 2741 terminals which used EBCDIC character coding. They did not have a "control" modifier key and didn't have many (any?) non-printing characters beyond space, backspace, tab, and return. The designers of Multics were constrained to using printing characters for line-editing.
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Published: September 10, 2010, 4:37 pm