Ray Tomlinson, email inventor and selector of @ symbol, dies aged 74

Tributes flow for the American computer scientist who ‘changed the way the world communicates.

Ray Tomlinson, the inventor of email and the man who picked the @ symbol for addresses, has died aged 74.

“A true technology pioneer, Ray was the man who brought us email in the early days of networked computers,” Raytheon spokesman Mike Doble said in a statement confirming his death.

Doble said Tomlinson died on Saturday morning but he did not know if he was at home and did not have a confirmed cause of death. Tomlinson worked in the company’s office in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The tech world reacted with sadness over the passing of Tomlinson, who became a cult figure for his invention in 1971 of a program for ARPANET, the Internet’s predecessor, that allowed people to send person-to-person messages to other computer users on other servers.

Thank you, Ray Tomlinson, for inventing email and putting the @ sign on the map,”

Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf called his death “very sad news.”

“His work changed the way the world communicates and yet, for all his accomplishments, he remained humble, kind and generous with his time and talents,” Doble said.

Originally from Amsterdam, New York, Tomlinson went to school at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and MIT in the 1960s, and was working at research and development company Bolt Beranek and Newman – now Raytheon BBN Technologies – when he made his email breakthrough.

The program changed the way people communicate both in business and in personal life, revolutionising how “millions of people shop, bank, and keep in touch with friends and family, whether they are across town or across oceans”, reads his biography on the Internet Hall of Fame website.

According to a 1998 profile in Forbes magazine, Tomlinson showed a colleague his invention and then, famously, said: “Don’t tell anyone! This isn’t what we’re supposed to be working on.”

At the time, few people had personal computers. The popularity of personal email wouldn’t take off until years later but has become an integral part of modern life.

“It wasn’t an assignment at all, he was just fooling around; he was looking for something to do with ARPANET,” Raytheon spokeswoman Joyce Kuzman said of his creation of network email.

Tomlinson once said in a company interview that he created email “mostly because it seemed like a neat idea”. The first email was sent between two machines that were side-by-side, according to that interview.

He said the test messages were “entirely forgettable and I have, therefore, forgotten them”. But when he was satisfied that the program seemed to work, he announced it via his own invention by sending a message to co-workers explaining how it could be used.

Tomlinson chose the @ symbol to connect the username with the destination address and it has become part of the international language of communication.

Kuzman said Tomlinson was looking at the keyboard and needed something that would not otherwise be part of the address and that seemed to be a logical solution.

“It is a symbol that probably would have gone away if not for email,” she said.

Around the time email started to become a household word, Tomlinson began receiving worldwide recognition for his achievement.

In 2000, he received the George R. Stibitz Computer Pioneer Award from the American Computer Museum. From there followed honors that included a Webby Award from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Science, and an Innovation award from Discover magazine, and the Eduard-Rhein Cultural Award, according to his biography.

He lived in Lincoln, Massachusetts where he raised miniature sheep. Attempts to contact his family were unsuccessful.

While more general email protocols were later developed and adopted, Tomlinson’s contributions were never forgotten.

“He was pretty philosophical about it all,” Kuzman said. “And was surprisingly not addicted to email.”

Source: The Guardian

The Key to Creating Effective Emails

A lead marketer shares the vital component to crafting impactful emails.

Most all email marketers ask themselves this one question: How do I keep my messages out of the spam folder? Mailify‘s CMO Eric Krattenstein says the answer is simple: content. The strategy behind that answer, however, is a bit more complicated. In a lucid (and humorous) Q&A, Krattenstein breaks down what readers are looking for in emails, the things marketers should avoid, and what the future of email marketing holds.

What makes an email message effective?
An effective email provides value to the recipient in the form of content that is both relevant and unique. Your readers are constantly flooded with emails, so as marketers we need to remember that what we deliver must not only look good but be unique and hyper-targeted to our recipients. Stand out from the overcrowded inbox by drawing the reader in with a great subject line and pre-header, and then deliver excellent content once you’ve won the open.

You’ve got to know your audience to be able to understand how to speak with them effectively. A key point here is to also remember you are speaking with your audience, not at them. If you treat email like a personal conversation—rather than a billboard—you’re on the right track.

What are readers looking for in an email from marketers?
Statistically, we know that most readers subscribe to email lists to receive discounts and promotions. Of course, that doesn’t mean every email you send needs to be selling something; it’s important to find balance. What readers are really looking for is value—and it isn’t always monetary. Share with them what you do best and how it can help them. If you run a DIY blog, share recent projects and advice. If you’re a digital marketing agency, provide useful tips for optimizing a website for Google’s latest algorithm update.

How does content fill those needs from the audience?
Email is all about content. More and more companies today are investing time and money into content strategies designed to develop and distribute great pieces of thought leadership content in the form of eBooks, whitepapers, videos, and the like. The same qualities that cause this content to get shared and distributed are what make email subscribers want to read it.

Marketers can be extremely successful either repurposing that content for email newsletters or using email as an additional lever for viewership. Imagine a great eBook you wrote with 10 great pieces of advice. Repurpose that eBook into a series of 10 extremely helpful email newsletters to let your subscribers benefit from the same great content via the channel they’ve chosen to use.

How do you pick the right content for an audience—and the company?
Well that’s the question that marketers have been asking since the beginning of the profession, right? How do I position myself to best resonate with my viewers? Since email is just another cog in your marketing machine, the same considerations for content and tone that you apply to other marketing materials should be true to your email as well. That said, the beauty of digital marketing (and email specifically) is the ability to segment based on data. The only sure-fire way to pick the right content is to test. Split testing your email campaigns allows you to get a real world look into what makes your recipients tick. Use the results for your tests and historical engagement data to create a model for the type of content your recipients respond to and then plan accordingly.

Is a content plan really that important for email marketers?
When we speak with clients, especially small businesses, we find that one of the primary issues we encounter is the irregularity of frequency and substance in their email campaigns. Having a content strategy in place allows a marketer to schedule their campaigns ahead of time, preventing the last-minute scramble to “get an email out.” Planning ahead with your email content strategy also makes it easier for marketers to look at the big picture and plan for seasonal events or promos.

Should email marketing always be a part of a content plan?
Absolutely. With email marketing you’ve got a proven channel for matching content with eyeballs. Even if email is just a supporting player in your content strategy, the fact that it is unparalleled in terms of cost-efficiency and the relatively small amount of time it takes to execute means marketers have no reason not to use it. Email marketing is so versatile that it can always be adapted to the needs of the overall content strategy. Email could be the focus of the content—like a series of 10 informative newsletters from the previous example—or it could be another outlet for driving traffic to a landing page for content downloads and lead generation.

What should readers expect when they open an email and read content?
(I love this question.) Readers should expect to open an email and not be able to think anything other than, “Wow, this email is exactly what I needed.” If you know your audience, each email you send should be so targeted and relevant that they can’t help but believe you are inside their heads waiting for the perfect time to send that coupon or the exact piece of information they were looking for.

What would you like to see less of in email content creation?
I think one of the things I’d like to see email marketers improve on is not always feeling the need to go the “hard sales” route in every email. It requires a lot of trust in the program, but a good email marketing strategy establishes trust and builds relationships—the revenue will follow. Believe in your content.

What would you like to see more of in email content creation?
I’d love to see email marketers start to embrace a mobile-first approach to their email campaigns when it makes sense. We know the number of emails being opened via mobile devices is increasing each year, but very few marketers specifically plan for these circumstances. Designing your emails to be responsive is a good start, but it goes further. When marketers realize that the chances of their email being viewed on a mobile device are greater than it being viewed on a desktop, the entire campaign should change. Can your recipient easily complete your desired call-to-action from their smartphone? Does your landing page take too long to load on a 3G/4G connection?

What do you see for the future of email content?
The future of email is exciting. Eventually email client capabilities will catch up to the creativity and ingenuity of marketers (I’m looking at you Outlook), and email can be taken to new levels. Videos, animations, interactive experiences; all of the things that make great dynamic Web content will be delivered right to your inbox. Spam filtering and inbox segmentation will continue to improve, which will even further increase the need for email marketers to deliver exceptional content and establish great relationships or be discarded.

Source: http://www.dmnews.com/

Author: Natasha D. Smith, Senior Editor

Your E-mail Font Is Ruining Your Life

Well, maybe not your life. But certainly your reputation with people of good taste.

Helvetica, the hip font of choice for brands and typeface nerds, is the default font setting for Apple Mail. Gmail defaults to Arial, a font one designer called Helvetica’s “ugly bastard son.” If the browser doesn’t support Arial, Gmail will use Helvetica instead.

While Helvetica is beloved by design nerds for its neutrality, its uniformity and lack of consistent spacing make it hard to read in large chunks of text. “The letters are too close together,” said Nadine Chahine, a type designer at Monotype. “That makes it too tight.”

Arial, like Helvetica, has what font designers call “ambiguous” letter shapes that make it difficult to parse lots of words in a row. “If you imagine b, d, p, and q, those are letter forms that all the children always mess up. They are mirror forms of one another,” font designer Bruno Maag said. “That feature is emphasized in a font like Arial, where the shapes are literally mirror forms.”

See how the b and d mirror each other below, and how the space between the h and thee in Helvetica is slightly larger than it is between the t and the i? These may seem like nuances here, but both make the words harder to read when they’re packed in great swatches of text and you’re reading a lot of e-mail.

And you are. Working Americans spend almost a third of the workweek checking and reading e-mail. In a 40-hour week, that’s over 11 hours a week reading online communications in fonts that aren’t doing our eyes any favors.

E-mail “clients” — the programs you use to check your e-mail, like Gmail, Apple Mail, and Outlook — tend to favor sans serif fonts, in which the letters don’t have end strokes, like Helvetica, Arial, and Microsoft Outlook’s default Calibri. (Gmail, Outlook, and Apple Mail are the three most popular desktop email clients, a study of over 1 billion emails found.)

“It used to be, until relatively recently, that most readers in a corporate environment would not have very high-resolution screens,” typographer Gerry Leonidas said. Simpler fonts, without all the details and design elements that come with serifs, would render cleaner on those lower-resolution screens. But “in the recent four or five years, we have significantly higher resolution to get good spacing, clean separation, so you don’t get grayscaling of characters,” Leonidas said. So e-mail clients no longer have to use sans serif fonts.

Under the weight of decades of history, though, they often default to them —  tragically, in Maag’s view.

“The argument that a serif font is too fussy doesn’t cut it anymore,” he said. “You want a font where the letter forms are not ambiguous.” Serif fonts, because of the additional stroke added to the ends of each character, tend to have that quality. See how the serifs in Georgia, below, give each letter its own character.

The key to a good font is legibility, a combination of speed, comprehension, comfort, and a kind of emotional acceptance of the font. The way the letters are shaped, the spaces between them, and the spaces within the letters themselves all determine how easy something is to read.

“When we read, we don’t read letter by letter,” Jose Scaglione, who designed Literata, the custom font for Google Play books, said. “We recognize a group of letters and recognize the interaction that exists between black and the white.”

Bookerly, the new font designed by Maag for the Kindle, is a serif font, which many believe is better for reading long blocks of text, although there is much debate andconflicting research about its merits over its sans counterpart. “Each character shape is very unique,” Maag said of Bookerly. “It creates a harmonious, varied word shape.” According to internal tests done by Amazon, Bookerly reads 2 percent better than previous fonts on speed, comprehension, and emotional acceptance, Maag said.

Literata was designed with the same principles in mind. The designers elongated the ascenders and descenders —  the top of the d and the bottom of the p, for example — to improve recognition of word shape. They also made the characters a bit wider.

Although the daily grind often requires sifting through a novel’s worth of e-mail, we interact with digital communication in a different way than we do books, and ideally fonts should reflect those varied experiences. Bookerly was designed for sustained reading of a single document and takes fatigue into account. For e-mails, we generally scan a couple of paragraphs. Having letters with wide, consistent spacing is most important for quick reading, the designers we interviewed said. A serif font will also make it easier to distinguish between letters.

Even today, users don’t have to subject their eyes to Helvetica’s or Arial’s blunted letter shapes. Gmail’s preferences offer six additional fonts and customization of the width of the letters. Apple Mail has even more font options.

In fact, anyone who knows anything about fonts does change the settings. For his own e-mail experience, Maag likes Verdana (sans serif) or Georgia (serif), which both have more “open” shapes than Helvetica and Arial. Verdana, as you can see below, has more, and more even, spacing between letters. Scaglione also likes Georgia. Chahine has an affinity for Calibri and Verdana. Leonidas used to use Verdana but upgraded to HD screens and now uses a font called Input.

Maybe it’s time for e-mail clients to change the default settings. “I do believe that organizations can certainly improve lives by specifying better fonts, which of course has an effect on how you read your e-mail,” Maag said.

Even better, what about giving the people a Bookerly for e-mail? “In theory, yes. A font for reading e-mails could be possible,” says Scaglione. Dare to dream.

Source: BloombergBusiness