Unraveling the Controversy: Who Really Invented Email?

The debate around who invented email has been going on for years, and now, on the 50th anniversary of its inception, it’s an opportune time to take a look at both sides of the story.

We’ll explore the history behind the Internet, ARPANET, EMAIL, and other complexities that have contributed to the controversy, as well as analyze some of the evidence in favor of V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai’s claims and Raymond Tomlinson’s ARPANET program.

We’ll also consider the implications of the invention of email, industry reactions, popular opinion, and attempts to discredit one side over the other. With over 3.9 billion email users globally, the conversation surrounding this supposedly revolutionary invention must be reexamined and resolved.


Since the 1970s, we have been using email to communicate with people from all around the world. But how did this technology originate?

The development of the email system we use today can be traced back more than two decades before the invention of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). Here, the influential programmer Raymond Tomlinson made an important contribution by using the “@” symbol to separate a person from the computer’s name.

In 1971, Tomlinson wrote the first-ever email program and sent the first message between two side-by-side computers. Independent sources later recognized this pioneering work to have coined the term “email.”

The ARPANET, initiated in 1969 by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the Department of Defense (DoD), was the first wide area packet switching network. It was planned and put into initial operation between 1967 and 1971 by the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) of ARPA. The ARPANET’s Network Control Program (NCP) had a significant influence on the design of the modern Internet, particularly the development of the Internet’s Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).

Source: Emerald Insight (www.emerald.com)

The Early Development of the Internet

The ARPANET was established in 1969 as the first autonomous packet-switched network of computers available to the public. The ARPANET aimed to connect universities and other departments through which information and communication could be easily and quickly shared.

Over the following years, great strides were made as advanced features were introduced, such as the ability to transfer text messages electronically.

However, most notably, Ray Tomlinson set out to solve the programming challenge of addressing messages to remote hosts on the network. Tomlinson had previously graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1965. Upon his hiring by ARPANET in 1971, he used email to distribute information about himself to everyone on the original ARPANET roster.

His solution included several fields integral to modern-day email systems, such as ‘To,’ ‘From,’ ‘CC,’ and ‘BCC.’

Ray Tomlinson

Ray Tomlinson was an American computer engineer and the pioneering mind behind the use of the “@” symbol in email addresses. Born in 1941, Tomlinson’s work in the early 1970s led to the development of the first networked email system, enabling electronic messages to be sent between computers. His choice of the “@” symbol to separate the user’s name from the host computer’s name, as in “user@host,” remains a fundamental element of email addressing to this day. Ray Tomlinson’s contributions to the world of computer communication were groundbreaking and foundational, and he is widely regarded as one of the early visionaries of the internet age. Tomlinson passed away in 2016, leaving a lasting legacy in the field of information technology.

The Birth of the ARPANET

The ARPANET was key to developing the internet and its associated applications, including email. Ray Tomlinson was one of the crucial figures in the invention process, having been involved since the start of the project. He worked on the architecture for an inter-organizational mail system and taught himself computer programming to achieve this feat.

Using his technical knowledge, creativity, and innovation, Tomlinson produced a functioning version of an email in 1971, thus making him the inventor of email.

Not only are the allegations to the contrary highly controversial and contentious but over the past few years, Tomlinson has been met with harsh personal and racist attacks. Therefore, it is essential to remember Tomlinson’s impact on creating the email system, after all he has put in.

Although there are several names linked to this innovative communication tool, there is no denying that Tomlinson created the basis of the email system that hundreds of millions of people have continued to use in their daily lives for more than two decades since he wrote his program.

It is undeniable that Tomlinson’s “@” symbol to separate a person’s name from the host computer was a groundbreaking step forward, influencing the modern-day use of emails and giving us a glimpse into the early days of the internet.

In conclusion, recognizing Raymond Tomlinson as the inventor of email is essential, regardless of any minor details that succeeding inventors may have brought to the field. He laid the building blocks for what proved to be one of human history’s most revolutionary communication tools.

The Ayyadurai Story

Shiva Ayyadurai

Shiva Ayyadurai is an Indian-American scientist, engineer, and entrepreneur who gained prominence for his claim to have invented email as a high school student in the late 1970s. Ayyadurai was born in 1963 in Bombay, India, and later moved to the United States. While his assertion about inventing email has been a subject of controversy and debate within the technology community, Ayyadurai has a diverse background that extends beyond this claim. He holds multiple degrees in fields such as electrical engineering and biological engineering and has also been involved in various entrepreneurial and political pursuits. Shiva Ayyadurai’s life and career have attracted both admiration and skepticism, making him a figure of interest in the worlds of technology and innovation.

V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai has been credited with inventing the first electronic mail system, along with his claim of inventing email, in 1978 when he was a fourteen-year-old prodigy at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)

Since gaining press coverage and the support of industry insiders, the controversy over the ‘inventor of email’ began as soon as Time Magazine and The Washington Post stated that Ayyadurai had invented a program that used the bcc, cc, to, and from fields.

Following his case against Gawker Media for $35 million, claiming defamation and slander over its statements that “Shiva Ayyadurai did not invent email,” it is fair to say that the debate over who truly invented email continues to spark new interest from media outlets.

Ayyadurai holds four degrees from MIT, is a Full Bright Scholar, an MIT-Lemelson Award Finalist, and a Westinghouse Science Talent Search Honours Award recipient.

In 2009, he was employed as a senior scientist for Computer Systems Modelling at India’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), where he attempted something without fear of failing.

In 1994, Ayyadurai founded the technology company Millennium Cybernetics, which was based on the idea of cybernetics and its union of natural and artificial systems.

It all started in 1978 when UMDNJ and Dr. Leslie P. Michelson recruited him to work on programming assignments.

To replicate the features of an interoffice, inter-organizational paper mail system, Ayyadurai developed a software program that could use Inbox, Outbox, Drafts, Memos (To, From, Date, Subject, Body, Cc, Bcc:), Attachments, Folders, Compose, Forward, Reply, Address Book, Groups, Return Receipt, and Sorting which could be used without any knowledge in computing systems.

His EchoMail Program was copyrighted in 1982, and the website for EchoMail was launched shortly after.

The accusations of Tomlinson have emerged since the Smithsonian news about Ayyadurai, and since then, he has been subject to personal and even racist attacks.

Historians such as Thomas Haigh and David Crocker and other industry insiders have disputed Ayyadurai’s account of inventing email, even though his program was arguably the first to use the BCC, CC, To, and From fields.

After the settlement between Ayyadurai and Gawker Media in 2013, false claims about “email” still exist, and the debate continues about who invented email by their invention or repurposing of earlier technologies like CCITT X.400.

In the article by (Lukas, 2005), the focus is on the evolution of email and its current usage. The article mentions that modern emails tend to be short and often omit capitalization and punctuation. However, it does not provide any specific information about the invention of email or the role of Ayyadurai.

Gupta et al. (2017) discuss the defense against phishing attacks, which are a common threat in the realm of email communication. While the article provides insights into the security aspects of email, it does not address the invention of email or Ayyadurai's claims.

The book titled "Inventing Email and Doing Media History" "“Inventing Email” and Doing Media History" (2021) may provide relevant information on the topic. However, without access to the content of the book, it is not possible to determine its relevance to the claim.

The Rise of EMAIL

The rise of email was established in the late 1970s when V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai was given a project by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) and Dr. Leslie P.

Michelson to program software replicating the features of an interoffice, inter-organizational paper mail system. Ayyadurai wanted the interface of his program to be simple enough so that no expertise in computer systems was needed for a person to use it efficiently.

He initially thought of the software similar to how a digitized version of sorting through physical mail works, including features like Inbox, Outbox, Drafts, Memo (To, From, Date, Subject, body, Cc, Bcc:), Attachments, Folders, Compose, Forward, Reply, Address Book, Groups, Return Receipt, and Sorting. Eventually, his EchoMail program was patented in 1982 with all these features intact, which was notably the first to use BCC, CC, To, and From fields.

In addition to his programming capabilities, Ayyadurai has several impressive credentials, with four degrees from MIT, being a Full Bright Scholar, an MIT-Lemelson Award Finalist, and a Westinghouse Science Talent Search Honours Award recipient.

He also gained attention from his international employers, such as India’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), when he pushed boundaries and attempted something without fear of failing.

From there, he established the technology company Millennium Cybernetics in 1994, which focused primarily on the emergence of cybernetics – the combination of organic and synthetic systems, essentially visualizing the connection between them.

The Accusations Against Ray Tomlinson

After V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai announced his invention of the email, industry insiders began to accuse him of falsely claiming to be the inventor of the email. They began attacking him, some going as far as to make personal and even racist comments.

Historians such as Thomas Haigh, David Crocker, and others were firm believers of ARPANET inventor Ray Tomlinson, who sent the first message using ARPANET in 1971 as the inventor of email, rather than Ayyadurai’s 1978 invention. They dismissed Ayyadurai’s EchoMail as not being significant as it was a closed system, as opposed to Tomlinson’s open system used by the ARPANET.

Tomlinson was receiving most of the credit for the invention of email for many years before Ayyadurai came forth with his EchoMail news, leading to criticisms from industry insiders.

For instance, Crocker noted that regardless of the features in Ayyadurai’s 1979 program, they already appeared in IWIF in 1976/77. Gawker Media fueled the criticisms as they posted articles saying, “Shiva Ayyadurai did not invent email,” resulting in Ayyadurai suing Gawker Media in 2012 for defamation and slander.

The two parties settled soon after, and the article was taken down and set the stage for more discussion regarding who invented email – whether Ayyaduari’s system was more “accurate” to the general definition of email or if it was just a modified version of current messaging systems.

False claims about “email” are still widely debated today as historians continue to settle the dispute between Ayyadurai and Tomlinson. Even though Tomlinson operated under an open system, and Ayyadurai’s system was closed, perhaps it is better for organizations; maybe it is better to accept both stories as valid in their own right and explore what brought us to our present understanding of email today.

Ray Tomlinson is widely credited with inventing networked email as we know it today, choosing the ‘@’ symbol to separate user and host addresses. His pioneering work in the early 1970s laid the foundation for modern email communication.

Source: Internet Hall of Fame (www.internethalloffame.org)

Who Invented Email? The Debate Continues

When discussing the invention of email, a debate has arisen between Ray Tomlinson and V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai over who can truly claim to have invented it. Tomlinson is widely credited with writing the first software program to enable inter-organizational mail systems, while Ayyadurai claims he developed a program in 1978 called “EMAIL.” However, historians dispute this account, citing the use of email before his program.

Ayyadurai has attracted public attention for his claims of inventing email, and industry insiders have weighed in on the debate based on their own opinions, but what is at the center of this controversy? Who invented email?

Since 1982, when an article in Smithsonian Magazine described Ayyadurai’s creation of the first electronic messaging system, our understanding of the birth of email has changed, and the feud between Tomlinson and Ayyadurai continues.

False claims made by Ayyadurai, such as inventing the “@” sign, have been debunked, and some believe he exaggerates the scope of his work, attempting to take credit for aspects already in existence at the time.

Despite being widely accepted as the inventor of email, Tomlinson has not escaped criticism, being accused of copying other people’s ideas and receiving excessive recognition for his work.

The debate is ultimately centered around whether or not Ayyadurai should receive official recognition from the US Government for inventing the first interoffice mail system – each side brings valid arguments from technical features to reactions from historians/industry insiders – with popular opinion playing an essential role in the resolution of this ongoing debate.

The Pros and Cons of Each Claim

Ray Tomlinson is widely credited with creating one of the first software programs for sending and receiving messages across an electronic mail system. His contribution was made in 1971 through his successful development of a system that enabled users to send messages between different computers within the ARPANET system. The recognition of his work led to him becoming known as ‘the inventor of email.’

On the other hand, V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai claims to have created the first electronic mail system in 1978. This program, named “EMAIL,” was designed to serve university faculty and medical researchers who needed a better way to access and manage emails.

He successfully gained recognition when a 1982 article in Smithsonian Magazine incorrectly credited Ayyadurai as the “inventor” of email, even though many EMAIL features had already appeared in prior electronic mail systems.

Both sides make valid points in the debate over who invented email. Tomlinson undeniably played a major role in advancing technology and deserves recognition for his work, whereas Ayyadurai made a significant addition to existing technology with the development of EMAIL.

On the other hand, Ayyadurai has made numerous false claims regarding his role in inventing email, including the notion that he invented the “@” symbol. This has caused many experts to be highly critical of his claims while questioning whether they qualify him to be recognized as the inventor of email.

The Role of Popular Opinion

Popular opinion has undoubtedly strongly influenced the debate surrounding who invented email. On the one hand, Ayyadurai has experienced a surge in popular support, with viral tweets and videos celebrating his work. His supporters often cite the Smithsonian article in 1982 that erroneously credited him as the inventor of email, viewing it as an affirmation of his achievements.

However, this same popularity may have worked against him as well. In 2015, after Gawker Media published a series of reports detailing how the Smithsonian article was wrongfully credited to Ayyadurai and the later Sony Pictures movie about his alleged invention, he initiated legal action against the company.

Ultimately, though, the court ruled in favor of Gawker based largely on evidence from industry insiders attesting to the falsity of his claims. Therefore, it is clear that popular opinion, even if it initially provided Ayyadurai with a sense of validation, ultimately did little to help his case.

The key question remains unanswered: who invented email? Experts such as Thomas Haigh and David Crocker have stated that neither Tomlinson nor Ayyadurai possesses enough proof to make a legitimate claim to being the inventor. Nevertheless, both stories deserve to be heard, as they are integral to the history of email.

Moving forward, perhaps it would be best to accept both stories, recognize the contribution of both innovators, and celebrate the anniversary of the invention of email.

Should We Let Go of the Past?

As we explore the mystery of who invented email, we can look back at its history to gain insight into the future.

Email has revolutionized communication and business, providing unprecedented efficiency and convenience – like a lightning bolt that illuminates our lives with instantaneous connection.

Its impact is undeniable; it’s as if an invisible bridge was built between us all, allowing us to traverse time and space in ways never imagined.

Moving Forward With Email

Since its invention, email has become integral to our lives, revolutionizing communication. From its humble beginnings as a simple messaging system to its current status as a powerful tool for communication and collaboration, email has come a long way. But what are the implications of this technology? And how can it be used to benefit us?

Email is an electronic version of traditional mail that allows users to send messages online. It was first developed in 1971 by Ray Tomlinson, who chose the @ symbol to address emails. Since then, email has evolved significantly, with features such as attachments and encryption being added over time.

The implications of email are far-reaching; it enables people worldwide to connect instantly and share information quickly and easily.

This makes it ideal for business communications or keeping up with friends and family living abroad. Additionally, emails can be stored indefinitely, which means important documents can be kept safe without taking up physical space or requiring manual filing systems.

In conclusion, email is an invaluable tool that has changed how we communicate forever – allowing us to stay connected no matter where we are in the world while also providing numerous practical advantages like cost savings and enhanced security measures. With so much potential on offer only the desktop site, it’s easy to see why this technology remains popular today!

The Impact of the Invention of Email

In addition to its convenience, email is often called the “lifeblood” of modern communication. However, it can also be a double-edged sword with pitfalls that should not be overlooked. An email has blurred the lines between our personal and professional lives like a smudged watercolor painting; we must consider this when moving forward with this technology.

On the one hand, email offers many advantages, such as quick delivery of messages, easy access to documents and files from anywhere in the world, and cost savings on postage or printing costs.

On the other hand, email has some drawbacks, including security risks due to hacking attempts or viruses embedded in attachments, privacy concerns related to data collection by third parties for marketing purposes, and an overload of information, which can lead to distraction or procrastination.

As we continue using email for personal and professional reasons, we must remain mindful of these implications to make informed decisions about how best to use this powerful tool without sacrificing our safety or productivity.

The Evolution of Email

The email was first revolutionized in 1971 when Ray Tomlinson sent the first electronic message through the ARPANET computers. Several key milestones over the years followed this as the platform continued to evolve. In 1978, for example, Seymour Papert invented cc, bcc, and addressing options, making it possible to simultaneously send email messages to multiple recipients.

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, Microsoft Outlook Express and IBM’s Lotus Notes products introduced people to contact management software, allowing them to manage their contacts easily. In 1996, HTML email began replacing plain text emails and filters, and anti-spam services like Eudora and SpamCop started to emerge.

The introduction of webmail services such as Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, and Gmail further expanded the global client base. Social media also released platforms tailored to email campaigns, such as Facebook Lead Ads or Twitter Promoted Messages. Later on, tight integrations between email, mobile devices, and other technologies made automation, tracking, and customization much easier than ever before.

What Does the Future Hold?

Today’s digital environment is a rapidly advancing arena that changes daily. More than 3 billion users are now worldwide, and more than 281 billion emails are sent daily. This number is expected to increase as new technologies and trends appear.

For example, artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities now allow companies to segment audiences automatically and personalize messages and content. Additionally, introducing virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and voice commands may soon connect with email to create an even more interactive user experience.

Email verification has also been gaining traction as organizations look to validate customer data and reduce address errors. As a result, email delivery and engagement levels are expected to improve, and businesses can look forward to improved targeting accuracy.

Ultimately, the combination of innovative technologies, user base growth, and features, including email personalization, tracking, and automation, makes it clear that the true potential of email has not yet been reached.


As we wrap up the discussion about who invented email, it is evident that this topic has attracted its share of controversy and debate over the past several decades. From arguments between V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai and Ray Tomlinson to scrutiny by industry insiders and historians, the invention of email has been heavily disputed with no clear consensus.

While valid points can be made for both inventors, popular opinion continues to sway the debate, making it difficult to say who deserves definitive recognition for the invention of email.

On the other hand, one thing remains certain: the invention of email technology has revolutionized our lives.

What began as a simple electronic messaging program has now transformed into much more, with features such as webmail services, tailored campaigns, and global collaboration improving everyday communication. We have seen an increase in cybersecurity threats and information overload, but these challenges aim to inspire new levels of innovation in the future.

Overall, the evolution of email technology is only just beginning, and what comes next looks even brighter.

Who actually invented email?

Ray Tomlinson is credited with inventing email in 1971, while a 14-year-old boy, Shiva Ayyadurai, began his work on the same system for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 1978.
Ray Tomlinson enabled communications between users on different hosts connected to ARPANET, revolutionizing communication and laying the foundations for the internet as we know it today.

Who invented email first, and when?

Ray Tomlinson is generally credited with the invention of email in 1971 for ARPANET, which later led to the creation of the internet.
In 1978, 14-year-old V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai developed an ” EMAIL ” computer program that replicated many interoffice paper mail system features.

Did Shiva Ayyadurai invent email?

Based on Shiva Ayyadurai’s registration of an email application for copyright in 1982 and the subsequent publication by Time Magazine in 2011, he appears responsible for inventing email.

Who is the father of email?

Raymond Samuel Tomlinson is widely regarded as the Father of Email. He was an American computer programmer who implemented the first email program on the ARPANET system, the precursor to the modern internet, in 1971.
This groundbreaking innovation allowed for mail to be sent between users on different hosts connected to the internet, making him a pivotal figure in the history of modern communication.

Who is the real inventor of email?

Ray Tomlinson was widely recognized as the inventor of email in 1971, the first system to send mail between users on different hosts connected to ARPANET.
This version has been challenged by V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, who asserts his invention of email in the late 1970s when he was a teen tech prodigy. However, Tomlinson remains the credited name behind the innovation of email.

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