The origins of mobile phone and email

atsignMartin Cooper and Raymond S. Tomlinson have just been granted the 2009 Prince of Asturias Award.

Cooper invented “the first handheld mobile telephone and supervised the ten years that were necessary to commercialize the product. He … formulated the Law on Spectrum Efficiency, also known as Cooper’s Law, which states that the maximum amount of information that is transmitted over a given amount of radio spectrum doubles every 30 months.”

tomlinsonTomlinson worked at Bolt Beranek and Newman (now BBN Technologies). He helped develop the TENEX operating system, which had several innovative features, including a full virtual memory system, a user-oriented command line interpreter, and a command escape recognition system. In 1971 he developed the ARPANet’s first application for email by combining the SNDMSG and CPYNET programs so messages could be sent to users on other computers. He selected the @ sign to identify the user’s computer. Before long, that sign became the icon of the digital era.

Ray and I were colleagues at BBN, and teammates on the Great Swamp Volleyball Team, but I was just an ordinary user of that ground-breaking operating system and that early form of email.


Kapitzke, Cushla, & Bruce, Bertram C. (2005). The arobase in the libr@ary: New political economies of children’s literature and literacy. Computers and Composition: Special Issue on the Influence of Gunther Kress’ Work, 22(1), 69-78. [doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2004.12.014]one of

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