Text Messaging Turns 22

Have you heard the new song by Straight No Chaser with Kristen Bell? It’s called “Text Me Merry Christmas” and it’s just a fun, silly song about missing your love at Christmastime and how a simple “Merry Christmas” text can brighten up your day and make you feel a little more… connected. I heard it on the way home from work one day last week and I couldn’t help but smile (and shake my head a little) the whole time. Working for a company whose main goal is to keep the world connected, I thought these opening lyrics summed it up just perfectly: “This holiday, you’ll be far away, and I’ll be all alone. So please remember, this December, to fully charge your phone…” If you haven’t heard it yet, look it up. It’s fun. In fact, here’s a link to a cute little video for “Text Me Merry Christmas.”

The very first text message ever was sent 22 years ago this month from Neil Papworth, a 22-year old test engineer for Sema Group, and — get this — it said, “Merry Christmas.” He was working at the time on a mobile messaging project for Vodafone, a European cellular carrier. On December 3, 1992, Papworth sent a simple message from a big computer in a Vodafone office to an Orbitel 901 phone as a test.

“It happened that day that Vodafone wanted to try sending a message to Richard Jarvis, one of the directors there, who was at a Christmas party. So we sat at the computer and typed him a message and then sent him the message ‘Merry Christmas,'” Papworth told ABC News. “For me it was just another day’s testing, it didn’t seem to be anything big at the time.”

Text messaging has come a long way since then. The first message was sent from a computer to a phone that’s almost as big as the one on my office desk. It was roughly a year before phones were actually able to send messages instead of just receiving them, and many years before texting became a popular way of communicating.

Matti Makkonen, an engineer in Finland, was working with Nokia on mobile messaging back in 1984. That’s where the idea started. Although, if you read the comments on the articles about the first text message ever sent, someone almost always references radio teletype and telegrams and says that text messages have been sent since the 1920’s and even earlier. While that is true, the birthday we’re celebrating this month is that of text messaging using SMS (short messaging services) from mobile phone to mobile phone (computer to mobile phone at the beginning).

Twitter (whose 140-character guideline came from the original 160-character limit on text messages) and Facebook have changed the dynamics of text messaging somewhat over the years. It is still a very popular method of communicating though, and it’s not likely it will be totally replaced by social media any time soon.

So, make sure your phone is fully charged so that you can stay connected and text that special someone “Merry Christmas!” | 410.394.5500

Leave a Comment

Call 410-394-5500 Monday-Friday 9-5 EST