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Q: internet symbols ( Answered,   3 Comments )
Subject: internet symbols
Category: Computers > Internet
Asked by: ryw-ga
List Price: $4.00
Posted: 05 Jun 2005 20:04 PDT
Expires: 05 Jul 2005 20:04 PDT
Question ID: 529756
Who came up with the @ symbol?
Subject: Re: internet symbols
Answered By: djbaker-ga on 05 Jun 2005 20:36 PDT
Greetings Ryw!
First let me say thanks for the question.  The answer to this proved
to be a lot more interesting then I originally thought it was going to

To answer this question I have broken it into two parts.  First, what
is the history of the @ symbol itself, since it has existed long
before email ever came into play.  The second is who picked the @
symbol to be used in email addresses.  Since you refer @ as an
internet symbol I assume this is what you were originally looking for.

The answer to the second question is a lot easier then the first.  The
@ symbol was plucked out of relative obscurity by Ray Tomlinson in

The actual origin of the symbol appears to be unknown.  Its usage has
changed throughout the years, meaning everything from units of weight
or volume to its use in pricing ("at the price of").  It first began
to appear on keyboards from about 1880 onwards.

"Its use in business actually goes back to late medieval times. An
Italian academic, Giorgio Stabile, a professor of the history of
science at La Sapienza University, claimed recently to have found
evidence of its use in the records of Florentine merchants nearly 500
years ago"

"Previously, the symbol had been thought to be a contraction for the
Latin word ad, meaning ?to, toward, at?; it was thought that in
cursive writing the upright stroke of the d had curved over to the
left and extended around the a so that eventually the lower part fused
with the a to form one symbol.

Whatever its source, in northern Europe the symbol seems to have soon
adopted its modern sense of ?at the price of?. It was used in accounts
or invoices to give the unit price of something (?3 yds of lace for my
lady @ 1/4d a yard?)."

"A more recent idea concerning the history of the @ symbol has been
proposed by Giorgio Stabile, a professor of history in Rome. He claims
to have traced the symbol back to the Italian Renaissance in a
Venetian mercantile document signed by Francesco Lapi on May 4, 1536.
The document talks about commerces with Pizarro and in particular the
price of an @ of wine in Peru. The symbol is still called arroba in
Spanish and Portuguese, and it represents a unit of weight with the
same name (1 arroba = 25 U. S. pounds), an old (Antonio Nebrjia,
Salamanca, 1492) Spanish/Latin dictionary translates arroba with
amphora. Under this view, the symbol was used to represent one
amphora, which was a unit of weight or volume based upon the capacity
of the standard terracotta jar. The symbol came into use with the
modern meaning "at the price of" in northern Europe."

"The history of the @ is little confused and there are many theories
about its origin. The Latin word "ad" which means appropriately
enough: "at" or "to" is often given as the obvious origin of @ as an
'ad' ligature.Historical documentation does not seem to support this
theory.The @ sign has most often been used over the last several
hundred years to indicate a "commercial at" or "at the rate of". The
symbol has been traced back as far as 1536 for usage in an Italian
trade document. There have been rumors of an earlier use for the
character, but again there is no real evidence as such. The symbol
continued for use in commercial trade but took on a new life in the
1970s for computer programming and with the first e-mail for the first
versions of internet. "

Articles you may find interesting:

A Natural History of the @ Sign

Linguist view of the @ symbol

If you have any question or need something cleared up, please request
a clarification before rating my answer and I will be happy to help.

Subject: Re: internet symbols
From: waukon-ga on 05 Jun 2005 21:05 PDT
Oh, the powers that be at G. may remove this post, but I remember a
rather fun bit on alt.usage.english, approximately, 'the name of @',
and then got revived as 'Govinde'.

What is Caesar?
What do goons say when the Caesar orders the sweet virginal thing be chased?
They play the virginal.
What is a virginal?

A virginal is an instrument.
What is a chaste virginal?

A chased virginal is a piece of musical furniture, and a good piece of wood-working.
Subject: Re: internet symbols
From: eppy-ga on 06 Jun 2005 08:56 PDT

for an article by Ray Tomlinson on sending the first e-mail, and why
he chose the @ symbol
Subject: Re: internet symbols
From: hedgie-ga on 06 Jun 2005 10:53 PDT
Good answer. Interesting history.

There is another aspect to it: when that symbol appeared at the keyboards?

It was part of early ASCII but mot part of the older Baudot set which
evilved from the Morse Code.

According to this history, at entered computer world about 1963:

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