Raymond Tomlinson, the inventor of modern email and a technological leader, has died.

Tomlinson died on Saturday, aged 74, of a suspected heart attack, according to his employer, Raytheon Company.

"A true technology pioneer, Ray was the man who brought us email in the early days of networked computers," Mike Doble, Raytheon spokesman, said in a statement.

Email in the form of electronic messages existed in a limited capacity before Tomlinson.

The messages could be shared within a limited framework.

But until his invention of the first network person-to-person email in 1971, there was no way to send something to a specific person at a specific address.

Tomlinson wrote and sent the first email on the ARPANET system, a computer network that was created for the US government that is considered a precursor to the internet.

Iconic symbol

Tomlinson is the one who chose the "@" symbol to connect the username with the destination address and it has now become a cultural icon.

He also contributed to the network's development, among numerous other pioneering technologies in the programming world.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Kate Bevan, a technology and social media analyst, said Tomlinson changed the way people communicate.

"He paved the way for lots of other ways that we communicate as well," she said.

"Now I can't imagine life without email, instant messaging, ways of being able to communicate with people."

Tomlinson held electrical engineering degrees from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and MIT.

He was hired by Bolt Beranek and Newman, known as BBN, in 1967.

It was later acquired by Raytheon Co, where he still worked at the time of his death, as a principal scientist.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies