The at symbol has a more than interesting history. It is important to include it in an email address these days and it is used in other ways too. But historically it had uses different from what it is now.
What the story tells about the word at
The first existing records refer to the use of the term “ar roub” from the Middle Ages and it is known that its origin is in the Greek language. It meant a quarter and was related to the quarter of a quintal. It was used as a bulk measure for commercial use. It was also used as a measure of the ability to calculate oil or wine. Depending on the product, the Arroba varied between 12 and 16 liters.
In Spain they found a certificate from 1448, which listed the entry of wheat into the Kingdom of Aragon. They also found archaeological remains from 1536. It is a document that documents the importation of goods from Seville to Rome. They used the at sign to represent a 26 liter amphora. Solids and liquids were transported in this container. From that moment until today, the at in Spain is sometimes used as a unit of measurement in rural areas.
Birth of the at symbol
The at symbol “@” was started by copyists who transcribed the texts of Latin documents by hand. It is common to find the preposition “Anzeige” in this language. They used it to chain the letters “a” and “d” together.
Shortly afterwards the symbol appeared in official letters in that language. The “@” was placed at the beginning of the name of the person who would receive the letter. As if it were an announcement of what would happen shortly afterwards.
Later the symbol was used in commercial documents and in some accounting records. For this reason, when the typewriter was invented, the “@” was added to the keyboard to make it easier to copy texts with this tool.
The “@” will appear on your computer keyboard
This is how the “@” was added to computer keyboards. In 1971 Ray Tolimson invented email and referred to the symbol as an identifier for emails. He chose the at sign because it was already included in the keyboards.
When you translate “arroba” into English, it means “at”. Therefore, the meaning of an email address is understood as follows: Username “in” Domain in which the email was rooted. The first email address was created by Tolimson and was: tomlinson @ bbn-tenexa, which translated means Tomlinson (in) bbn-tenexa.
Currently, the at sign is also used in social networks and WhatsApp. It is placed followed by the username so that notification of the message reaches the prospect. So we get used to using it every day.