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In 1992, a 22-year-old British man was the first to send a text message

03. 12. 2022 Saturday / By: Robert Denes / Generic / Exact time: BST / Print this page

On this day in history, December 3, 1992, the first text message is sent - Neil Papworth was a 22-year-old engineer from Reading, UK, who grew up studying computer science. According to Papworth, he sent the test message to Richard Jarvis, director of telecommunications services at Vodafone UK, who was attending an office Christmas party.

Although the groundbreaking software success occurred in 1992, text messaging did not become widespread for years due to the lack of handheld keyboards. Papworth now lives in Montreal with his wife and three children and works for another software company, Oracle.

People around the world send text messages every day – often multiple times a day. The simple act of typing on a keyboard (however small the keyboard is) and hitting “send” is second nature in the 21st century.

Manners, language and politics have changed dramatically. However, people rarely think about it anymore, because it has become almost invisible due to the obviousness of the maximum 160-character text message. However, this method of communication was once new.

Today marks 30 years since a British technician sent fifteen characters, including a space, to a group of executives at the Vodafone phone company: "Merry Christmas". The first message using the Short Messaging Service protocol via the GSM standard was a fact.

SMS still met a huge demand; 160 characters can fit a lot of everyday communication. In 1992, email was still in its infancy, pagers were for doctors and police officers, and MSN Messenger, Twitter and Whatsapp were just over the horizon. Thus, SMS became a means of a short, business or romantic message without having to have a real conversation. The breakup via text message must have happened at that time and for the same reason. Ten years after its debut, the world sends 250 billion text messages a year. And GSM service providers made gold with it.

In order to be able to say more in 160 characters, SMS has given birth to a new vocabulary which, not coincidentally, adds an emotional dimension to the digital exchange. "Lol" is a laughing smiley text ("laugh out loud"); "u2" means "you too"; and "gr8!" the English "big" and hundreds more SMS afko's.

Texting didn't come out of nowhere. It can be traced back to Samuel Morse, who in 1844 sent the message "What God Has Done" over the telegraph line in stripes and dots. God has indeed released something: the technological evolution from the telegraph to the telex, telephone, radio, TV and Internet data packets, in which all these genres are united. So now you can watch a clip from an old TV show on your phone. Or send a voice note to the other side of the world via Whatsapp.

SMS is history. See the legal process surrounding the January 6, 2021 storming of the Capitol in Washington, in which messaging between former President Trump and his entourage plays a leading role, or the wrangling between the parties during the coronation of 10 Downing Street.

"Imagine if we had such real-time footage of the French Revolution or Hitler's Bierkellerputsch [1923]," wrote Simon Kuper in the Financial Times last year.

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