Mar 01 2012

The Text Message Turns 20 This Year

Tech may come and go, but text messaging remains the same.

Text messaging has quietly helped lead the mobile revolution. In 2011, it’s estimated that some 8 trillion text messages were sent around the world. For the under-21 crowd, texting was even preferred to talking by 71 percent of respondents in a 2011 poll.

And what’s not to love about texting? It’s a discreet and incredibly simple form of communication that can pretty much happen anywhere, at anytime — except in the driver’s seat, in many states. In fact, its early simplicity in restricting messages to a 160-character count inspired the founders of Twitter to follow its lead by implementing a 140 character count limit as they developed the now wildly popular social networking service.

Getting a little ahead of the party, the Nokia Connects blog is celebrating the birth of the text message, which it dates to some time around Christmas 1992, when Neil Papworth texted Vodafone director Richard Jarvis, “Happy Christmas.”

In honor of texting’s big 2-0, Nokia has gathered some fun facts about the technology, which has increased in usage, but not changed all that much in its features:

  • Matti Makkonen, a Finnish engineer, is the inventor of texting. He came up with the idea in 1984, but hasn’t profited from the service because he never applied for a patent.
  • The 160-character count limit was introduced by Friedham Hillebrand, a German communications researcher, because his research found that 160 characters was a sufficient length for average messages.
  • Text messaging earns the telecom industry $114.6 billion a year.
  • Texting has spawned a sub-language of English, with words like LOL, BRB and TTYL gaining in popular usage and everyday communication.
  • The current record for the fastest text sent using the message “The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality, they seldom attack a human.” is 37.28 seconds.

How has text messaging changed the way you communicate?

For more on the 20th anniversary of text messaging, read the Nokia Connects blog. And for more great content from around the web, check out BizTech's 50 Must-Read IT Blogs.