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Washington Post confuses email and web

Via the Brisbane Times, an article from the Washington Post about Tomlinson, the guy who ‘invented’ the use of ‘@’ in emails in 1972, confuses the Web and Email technology which preceded it by several decades. Even after the ‘@’ symbol, you still sometimes had to use the ‘bang’, i.e. ‘!’ to route emails explicitly. You put the machines you wanted to route it though in the ‘bang path': ‘amachinename!anothermachine!yourmachine!youraccount’. When I started using FidoNet in the 80s and through to the early 90s when I had a ‘UUCP’ account through APANA, sometimes that old form persisted. Anyway, whatever WashPo thinks all that’s got to do with the web, I’m not sure.

He put the @ in email:

The symbol suggests that we think of the web as a geographic location, rather than a state of mind. It is something to be surfed, cruised, crawled through.


  1. Jon Strayer wrote:

    Fido Net? I thought I was the last Fido Net survivor. :-)

    I ahd completly forgotten about bang routing.

    Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 10:13 | Permalink
  2. Scot Mcphee wrote:

    Yeah, Zone 3, net 712 IIRC.

    Once upon a time it was even possible to use the bang path on top of SMTP; so people might have an address like machine! and an SMTP mailer would deliver the email to’s SMTP, which then knew how to parse the machine!user part (i.e. deliver the mail to ‘user@machine’, presumably on a private IP network but potentially queued to be picked up via UUCP). rewrite rules often contained that stuff in there by default.

    I have no idea whether it still works, though.

    Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 11:02 | Permalink
  3. Ben Ihle wrote:

    Wow, fidonet, that takes me back… 3:640/531.81

    Things seemed much simpler back then — though maybe I’ve just forgotten the horrors associated with modem connections :)

    Sunday, April 29, 2012 at 00:18 | Permalink