Ray Tomlinson RIP, glyph creator who changed our world

Ray sent, in 1971, a message from one computer to another using ARPANET.

Before Tim Berners-Lee fiddled with it to create the World Wide Web, the first truly universal religion, genius mathematicians and physicists used Advanced Research Projects Agency Network to communicate chip-to-chip rather than trotting over to the other side of the lab complex to have a chat.

Ray’s revolution moment was to use the @ symbol to denote and identify email addresses. Because of this he became the Glyph Master of modern time.

A Glyph (yes, of course I had to look it up) is: “…an elemental symbol within an agreed set of symbols, intended to represent a readable character for the purposes of writing.”

Since Ray’s pivotal decision, punctuation symbols and shortcuts have become fundamental communication devices.

From the colon smiley thing 🙂 to the more subtle furrowed brow >:/and #, the new universal thanks to Twitter, the glyph implementation process continues to evolve. Presumably it will do so for as long as we use keyboards with symbols at their periphery.

I learned all this from an article inThe Economist which makes the point that punctuation, so dear to many etymological pedants, “… has not always been the epitome of order that some of its fans think.”

What the article also mentions is that this new order is limited to digital channels of communication.

Every hopeful young person, seeking employment, is fully aware that formal writing and correct punctuation are crucial to comprehension. Apparently greeting a prospective employer using ‘Mate’ or ‘Yo Dude’ as an opening gambit only works at companies such as Powa Technologies.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn on 22 March