the contextual life

thoughts without borders

where you @?

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The glamour preposition of the last two decades, without question, is not a word but a symbol—specifically, the @ sign. It is the one common component of every e-mail address on earth. . .Of course, @ predates e-mail.. . .It eventually became a commonly understood symbol meaning “at the price of”—so common that it was included on the first typewriter keyboard in the late 1800s.

Fast-forward a hundred years or so, to 1972. Ray Tomlinson, an engineer at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, consulting firm of Bolt, Beranek, and Newman, was working on a project in which staff members at the company would transfer files and send messages among a series of networked computers around the country: in other words, e-mail. To indicate where the sender was “at,” Tomlinson decided to use the @ sign to precede the name of the host computer.

In an interview not long ago, he said the decision was pretty much a no-brainer.

“If you look at the keyboard, there really aren’t a whole lot of choices. the one that really stands out is the at sign, because it indicates where a user might be. It’s the only preposition on the keyboard.”

—ben yagoda, when you catch an adjective, kill it (2007)

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Written by Gabrielle

October 31, 2010 at 9:37 am

Posted in grammar

Tagged with , ,

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