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Texting Turns 25 Years Old

December 5, 2017 by   | Category: Mobile
Texting celebrated a milestone birthday this past Sunday, ICYMI.

The first text message was sent on Dec. 3, 1992, by British engineer Neil Papworth to Richard Jarvis, an executive at British telecom Vodafone, who was attending his company’s holiday party in Newbury, England.

Typed out on a PC, it was sent to Jarvis’s Orbitel 901, a mobile phone that would take up most of your laptop backpack, and read: Merry Christmas. But Jarvis didn’t send a reply because there was no way to send a text from a phone in those days.

Although Papworth is credited with sending the first text message, he’s not the so-called father of SMS. That honor (or blame) falls on Matti Makkonen, who initially suggested the idea back in 1984 at a telecommunications conference.

But texting didn’t take off over night. First it had to be incorporated into the then-budding GSM standard. 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.

Today, about 97 percent of smartphone owners use text messaging, according to Pew Research, and along the way, a new set of sub-languages based on abbreviations and keyboard-based imagery has evolved. More than 561 billion text messages were sent worldwide in June 2014, about 18.7 billion texts sent every day, according researcher TextRequest.

Texting has become so popular that most Americans would rather type it than say it. US smartphone users are sending and receiving five times as many texts compared with the number of phone calls each day, according to the International Smartphone Mobility Report by mobile data tracking firm Infomate.

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