Published: Mon, December 04, 2017
IT | By Lester Massey

The SMS text message turns 25 today

The SMS text message turns 25 today

On the same day that Whitney Houston's I will always love you was the number 1 song in the U.S. and Home Alone 2 topped the box office, 22-year-old Sema Group software architect Neil Papworth sent the first SMS (Short Message Service).

Although Papworth is credited with sending the first text message, he's not the so-called father of SMS. It was "Merry Christmas", and was sent successfully to a friend and Vodafone employee Richard Jarvis.

But texting didn't take off over night. Makkonen feels the technology actually was launched in 1994 when Nokia unveiled its 2010 mobile phone, the first device that let people easily write messages.

Mobile phone users sent 102 billion text messages in 2015, which was down on the 150 billion messages exchanged in 2011, according to Ofcom statistics.

By 2007, we were sending 66 billion SMS messages a year in the United Kingdom; in 2012, we sent 151 billion.

And perhaps because they missed that initial adoption, Americans still don't add the customary "x" at the end of a message. December 3 marks 25 years since mobile telephones moved beyond mere audio. "Looking back with hindsight, it's clear to see that the Christmas message I sent was a pivotal moment in mobile history". So SMS can be considered the first step towards the modern smartphone.

It pioneered one-to-many communication - you could send the same message to many different contacts. But texting remains popular due to how easy it is to use. Moreover, the emergence of SMS has given a big boost to emojis and messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram, which are used by millions.

SMS still has a future, though, because it works where very few data standards will work, Ms Bruton says.

It was sent over the Vodafone GSM network in the United Kingdom, though back then handsets could only receive messages, not send them.

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