The “@” symbol – Things that are surprisingly older in the internet world

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There used to be the days where the internet was rarely used by the user and surprisingly only by few. Now, that's not the case in 2017. People google each and everything including how to sleep. With the advancement in internet technology, few old pieces of stuff which were used online long before is about to become obsolete.

The “@” symbol – Things that are surprisingly older in the internet

"@" is one among such things. Other than using it in mail, people don't seem to use it anywhere else. Spelled as "at", it is commonly called as 'at sign', 'at symbol' or 'commercial at'. Though you see this symbol in emails nowadays, the main reason behind the innovation of this sign is not the same. It was originally used for accounting purpose with the meaning 'at a rate of'.

After its wide utilization in email addresses, even the computer and smartphone keyboards started including this symbol on them for easy access. Although we are aware of its usage only on emails and smileys, its existence is dated back to at least 500 years old.

The “@” symbol – Things that are surprisingly older in the internet

Some even argue that this symbol dates back to 6th or 7th centuries where people from Latin adapted this sign from the Latin word ad which means at, to or toward. There are various other linguists who argue that this sign appeared sometime in the 18th century and used by merchants to indicate the price per unit like 2 fish @ 7 pence.

There is also an evidence of first documented usage of it in a letter by Francesco Lapi, a Florentine merchant in 1536, who used the symbol @ to show the units of wine called amphorae. Its origin itself looks mysterious.

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As we go deeper in search of its history, there comes another interesting thing. The symbol which we are using now in our mail has got different meaning in different countries. Especially they are associated with animal names.

In South African language Afrikaans, this sign is called aapstert which means monkey's tail. In Greece, it is called as papaki, meaning 'little duck'. Whereas, in Italian, the symbol is called as chiocciola which means 'snail'. There are still many countries which use this sign for a completely different purpose.

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Later comes the story of an email address. In 1971, a computer scientist named Ray Tomlinson was searching for a symbol on his Model 33 teletype to separate individual's name from computer name. When he came across @ sign located above 'P' on his teletype model, he felt this is the right symbol because of its less usage in other areas.

@ was also inducted into the lasting collection of the Museum of Modern Art, which says the modern usage of this symbol as an example of "elegance, economy, intellectual transparency, and a sense of the possible future directions that are embedded in the arts of our time."

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