Texting turns 20!
Twenty years ago today a 22-year-old British engineer unknowingly invented both the scourge of intimate dinner conversations and the center of every teenager’s social life.
On Dec. 3, 1992 Neil Papworth used his computer in the sleepy town of Newburty, Berkshire, to send “Merry Christmas” to the cell phone of Vodaphone executive Richard Jarvis and a trillion-message a year phenomenon was born.
The birth of text messaging, officially called Short Messaging Service, was not a short labor — it took more than seven years for the 160 character or less messaging service to really take off.
The first SMS text message was sent 20 years ago today in England.
That’s because cell phone companies, and Papworth himself, never thought people would want to type messages on their phones’ tiny keypads when they could just talk to them.
“We thought SMS was a clever way for a company’s staff to send simple messages to one another,” Papworth told The Guardian.
But as cell phone popularity grew, rival networks needed to distinguish themselves and texting became one of many features that companies used in the fight for customers.
Texting’s popularity soon exploded with eight trillion messages being sent last year alone.