The Museum of Modern Art in New York integrates the @ into its collection

THE Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA) announced the acquisition of @ to your collection. Before we start messing around, let's clarify that this action does not imply that we have to pay royalties every time we send an email or reply on Twitter. The idea of ​​the museum is to preserve the @ as if it were another work of art. The objective of museums is, in this sense, to conserve historical heritage, not as an appropriation, but as a safeguard.

Why do you consider it modern Art Museum For @ as a piece of design? Let's go back to the story a little. Many linguists consider that the symbol @ dates from the 6th or 7th century, created as an attempt to represent the Latin preposition ad (in, towards) in a single character. In the 16th century, Venetian merchants used it as a representation of amphora (amphora), a standard measure for liquids. In Spanish, @ was used as a symbol for the arroba, another unit of measurement of mass or volume, equivalent to 25 kilo pounds.

The symbol @ was recognized as “the salesman” when he joined the American Dictionary of Printing and Publishing in 1885. By this time, their graphical representation was standardized in both style and application, and they appeared in the code ASCII original in 1963. At that time, the @ it was used as an abbreviation of the word at (at) or the phrase « at the price of », used mainly in accounting and business.

It was not until 1971 that the @ acquired its current use. Ray Tomlinsonan American electrical engineer, developed the email prototype for the company BBN (Bolt Berakek and Newman). Tomlinson He was responsible for the program that allowed the company to send messages between computers on a local network. In this way, a previously virtually unused symbol was given a new meaning. Ray chose the @ for the strong sense of location: an individual, identified by a username, is located in an institution/server/computer.

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For him modern Art Museum, the appropriation or reuse of this pre-existing (or even ancient) symbol, induced by a revolutionary technological innovation, is considered “a design act of extraordinary elegance and economy”. Without the need to redesign keyboards or throw away old computers, Tomlinson endowed the @ of a new function which has no connection with its previous tasks: that of constructing a relationship between entities and establishing links between them.

THE @ It has been fully integrated into our daily lives. Among some curiosities, the Germans, Poles and South Africans call it « the monkey's tail » in their languages; the Chinese see it as a little mouse, while the Italians and French see it as a snail. For the Russians, the @ symbolizes a dog, and for Finns it looks like a sleeping cat. In Spanish, the @ it was adopted as a means of expressing neutrality. The recent appearance of Twitter it also gave it another meaning in online conversations.

In this sense, the modern Art Museum recognizes that Tomlinson accomplished a powerful act of design that not only forever changed the meaning of @, but it is also part of our identity when it comes to communicating with others. His role as a designer – albeit a casual one – is celebrated by the museum in a collection that celebrates « the elegance, economy, intellectual transparency and sense of future potential that is anchored in the arts of our time, the essence of modernity.