The first email -- or electronic message as it was called at the time -- was sent by computer engineer Ray Tomlinson back in 1971. In celebration of the medium's 40th birthday, the folks at ReachMail, an email delivery system, put together this infographic that highlights various points of interest in email's evolution. It covers a lot, from when the word email was first used to references to the medium in popular culture.

Infographics are always a bit of a hodgepodge of statistics culled from a variety of sources. Here, we sort through the clutter and pull out some of our favorite facts and figures:

  • 1971: Computer engineer Ray Tomlinson sends the first electronic mail message. Tomlinson has since forgotten what the message said.
  • 1976: Queen Elizabeth II becomes the first head of state to send an electronic mail message.
  • 1982: The word "email" is first used and, in the same year, Scott Fahlman created the first-ever smiley emoticon.
  • 1998: The word "spam" is added to the Oxford English Dictionary. That same year, Warner Bros. released You've Got Mail, which topped $250 million at the domestic box office.
  • 2003: On an episode of The Simpsons, Homer reveals his email address to be chunkylover53@aol.com.
  • 2004: LOL and other Internet acronyms are officially recognized in the Oxford English Dictionary. Also in 2004, the FTC codified email spam laws and multimedia emails were introduced after the MMS World Congress in Vienna.
  • 2008: Presidential candidate Barack Obama compiles a database of over 13 million email addresses.
  • 2011: The Associated Press Stylebook changes "e-mail" to "email."

Check out more Infographics on the Technology Channel.

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