@: A Triumph of Design

20:50 Mon 22 Mar 2010
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The New York Museum of Modern Art has added the @ symbol to its architecture and design collection. Originating perhaps as a Latin abbreviation for “toward”, it showed up on one of the early Underwood typewriters (possibly the Underwood 1; it was definitely on the Underwood No. 5) and was used for “at the rate of”, which usage still survives.

But it’s really being recognized as a landmark of design because of its use as the separator between username and hostname—specifically, in email addresses, chosen by Ray Tomlinson in 1971.

It has plenty of other uses, and while we’re here I’ll note that I use it as an imformal extension to reStructuredText: I surround links that have titles with @ symbols and have a script run through the text to insert the actual reST necessary to support that (which, sadly, does require a custom directive).

One Response to “@: A Triumph of Design”

  1. Kevin Teljeur Says:

    The @ symbol is great in that context. it has some other uses (@UserName, for example) which are good, but some terrible abuses too. I guess that goes for all conventions though.

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