Design for the Real World: @

Feature

Friday, August 13, 2010

(Ray Tomlinson)

Earlier this year the Museum of Modern Art acquired the "@" symbol as part of its permanent collection. MoMA design curator, Paola Antonelli, tells the story of how it came to be so ubiquitous. Produced by Kim Gittleson.

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Contributors:

Kim Gittleson

Comments [3]

vaporland from denver, colorado

the link to the original web article:
http://www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/2010/03/22/at-moma/

Aug. 22 2010 02:15 AM
Jim Kaliss from Wyndmoor, PA

I liked the piece about the "at" sign (@).
There was a piece on NPR a few years back that fills in part of the middle of the history. According to that story, the symbol was used to denote the price of one of those big clay flasks of wine or oil, and was then called an "amphora," the ancient word for those flasks. I think of this every time I buy something in bulk at the co-op!

(Similarly, the "marqee" which in graphics programs is a scintillating rectangle to select an oblong area, meant a large tent-like structure before it meant the roff over the front of a theater).

Aug. 17 2010 10:01 PM
Bill Byrom from Irving, Texas, USA

This piece repeatedly describes the machine used by Ray Tomlinson at BBN as a "Model 55". But the Teletype Corporation never built such a model. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleprinter#Teletype

What Paola Antonelli posted on the MOMA website is correct: It was a Teletype Model 33, which was widely used in 1971 as a computer input/output device. See: http://moma.org/explore/inside_out/2010/03/22/at-moma/

Also see Ray's comments on this at: http://openmap.bbn.com/~tomlinso/ray/mistakes.html

I first learned the FORTRAN computer programming language using a Model 33 when these started to be used to communicate via acoustic coupler modem to the University of Texas Taurus multiuser system from high school in Austin, Texas, in 1971. And I used a much older Teletype Model 15 at home to communicate with other Amateur Radio operators via radio. The old clack-clack-clack heard on old network radio and television programs in the background was from real or recorded Teletype machines sending and receiving news and weather reports.

Bill Byrom
N5BB@sent.com

Aug. 14 2010 03:35 PM

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