By | February 1, 2019

In the years before computers, the Internet and email there was a symbol on a typist’s keyboard that was rarely used or more commonly forgotten about completely. This was the “at” @ and short of it being a quiz question along the lines of “what is that symbol of little a surrounded by a circle called?”, it’s use was generally minimal. When it was used people would look at it aghast and wonder why it was being used for. Jump forward to the present day and it is everywhere as the recognised symbol for “at” as it finds itself wedged between your name and the organisation you work for on your email account and personal accounts too. Professional SEO services London companies like elevateuk.com are well aware of the importance of this symbol to the evolution of our computer and internet systems.

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Unless you worked in the business world it was unlikely that you would come across the at @. It was originally a tool used to signify the price that a product was selling at or being sold to you or your company for. So, you would expect to find one on an invoice or similar like this:

14 tractors parts @ £45 each.

In typical business terms it shortened information making things a bit more streamlined for a person reading down a long list. It would have happily played this little part in life forever until in 1972 the creators of the electronic mail coding programme were on a quest for something to complete the system they were writing. It was time for the at @ to step up and be counted.

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Ray Tomlinson had a problem. He was writing a code to create email, but he needed something that could anchor the name of the person in the organisation to the company that they worked for. The problem was that he couldn’t use another letter as this might blend into someone’s name or cause confusion when typing it. He decided that he needed a symbol instead. However, the use of brackets or semi colons just seemed to be inappropriate or, as before was confusing. Tomlinson wanted something that would stand out and would be easy to remember. He scanned the keyboard again and found the answer right in front of him. It was the humble, little used @ that would provide him with the answer that he needed.

The @ would still mean “at” but now it would mean at a company. [email protected] (not a real email address please don’t click it). Tomlinson was just being practical, but he had inadvertently created the symbol for the digital age along with hashtag.