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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.

3 Comments

  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!user@domain.edu and an SMTP mailer would deliver the email to domain.edu’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). Sendmail.cf 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