Ray Tomlinson, the inventor of email, died last this past March. He is credited with putting the now iconic “@” sign in the addresses of the revolutionary system. Tomlinson said the @ sign merely indicated that the user or sender of the message was “at” some other hosting location as opposed to being part of, or integrated into the same apparatus as the machine that received the message. The @ symbol was borrowed from the common unit price used in the marketplace—eg, “ bananas @ $1.29 per pound”. Email has now been around for 45 years and still is the standard in business and for personal use.
Emails have a tendency to reach people almost immediately whenever and wherever a person might be, and this type of instantaneous presence has altered social and business interactions profoundly. At the work place, one never knows if his latest work assignment is going to be changed or need a redesign as a result of a last second email from a boss. Normal business hours have been extended because emails can be sent 24 hours a day. Governments in some countries have taken steps to limit or prohibit employers from requiring employees to accept emails after hours. France has passed rules, that under some circumstances, only allow the exchange of emails between workers and their bosses from 9-6 pm. From the social perspective, emails have routinely become a substitute for phone calls and other traditional means of communicating such as letters and thoughtful cards– things are less personal now. Companies like Facebook, Snapshot and Instagram have followed Tomlinson’s lead and offer similar forms of instant communication. Even though these companies offer electronic cards for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and what not, they all seem to lack the personal touch of a handwritten note or greeting card. Emails have empowered couples to break up without the anxiety of being face-to-face; employers have fired employees via email; salespeople often forego personal meetings and rely more on emails to consummate sales. The list goes on, lives have changed, many think for the worse.