December 06, 2012
Text Messaging Turns Twenty
It’s the birthday of the text message, so let’s get some cake and light some candles! Wait, twenty candles, really? Yes, text messaging has turned 20 years old, and while it may not have always been as popular as it is these days, it’s now a staple of communication.
Ever since mobile phones added letters to the number pad, texting has been popular. The first text message was sent December 3rd, 1992, in London. Text engineer Neil Papworth texted Richard Jarvis, a Vodafone (News - Alert) employee, the message “Merry Christmas,” thus kicking off the tradition of texting people for holidays and other celebrations rather than saying it in person.
However, it wasn’t until the next year that Nokia (News - Alert) made texting within the same network available. Even then, as it was limited to the Nokia network, its usage was very limited until 1999, when text messages could be sent from network to network, thus allowing for greater communication.
In spite of texting seeming to be more time consuming than actually calling someone, being limited to 160 characters and having to click through numbers to get to the desired letter, it caught on quickly, especially with students. Three years later, there were more than 250 billion text messages being sent across the world.
Eventually, SMS reached the point where it was no longer just used by students and children, partially due to many of the students joining the workforce. From there, it never looked back, with smartphones and texting plans making it easier than ever to send messages.
In a business environment, SMS has become an essential tool for getting in touch with co-workers. It’s easy to send out a reminder for a meeting that starts in five minutes, or to exchange information quickly. Even if someone is on a vacation, it takes seconds to receive and respond to a text asking what the password for a computer is, or how many units one needs to order.
However, 20 might be middle-aged in technology years, as traditional mobile phone SMS is beginning to give way to Internet-based services. These are more affordable than messaging plans, and come with extra features that text messages tend to lack, causing revenues from text messaging to start descending in some countries.
That’s not to say the end is near, of course. There is competition to the traditional text message, yes, but SMS is not on its way out. It’s still used very commonly (especially by those without smartphones), and used by businesses to contact customers, by reality shows for viewers to cast votes, and even to pay for car parking in some cities.
So happy birthday to SMS. You’ve come a long way since you first wished someone a “Merry Christmas,” and the future is still bright for you. We’ll keep an eye on your progress in the years to come, to see what SMS develops into.
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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
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