Monday, December 03, 2012

The text message is now 20 years old: LOL

On Tuesday, the text message became two decades old. LOL.

The first text message (also known as an SMS message) was sent on Dec. 3, 1992, when a 22-year-old British test engineer named Neil Papworth used his computer to send the message "Merry Christmas" to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone owned by Vodafone employee Richard Jarvis, who was at a Christmas party across town.

While not as earth-shattering as the first voice phone message, "Mr Watson -- Come here -- I want to see you," sent by Alexander Graham Bell to Thomas Watson, for many, texting has replaced speaking on the phone.

Who could have imagined, then, that not only would text messages become the primary means of communication for some (specifically, teens), it would invent a whole new lexicon (text message speak).

James Thickett, director of research at Ofcom, said:
When texting was first conceived, many saw it as nothing more than a niche service. But texts have now surpassed traditional phone calls and meeting face to face as the most frequent way of keeping in touch for U.K. adults, revolutionizing the way we socialise, work and network.
Ofcom is the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the U.K.

Despite its seeming ubiquity, text messaging, which carriers consider a cash cow since it is basically free, riding on the cellular carrier signal, is in decline. The rise of smartphones also means a rise in alternatives.

Apple's iMessage service, WhatsApp, Viber, KakaoTalk and Facebook Messenger are among viable rivals. These all have enhancements which are attractive, but the also use data, as opposed to texting. While that's not a deal-breaker, authorities have told the public to text, not call, during emergencies due to its slight bandwidth use.

Such will not be the case with these other messaging services, something most people forget.

Some more developed nations are seeing SMS message use drop. However, in the developing world, smartphone penetration is low, and texting is still king. Globally, SMS traffic continues to grow and in 2011, 7.4 trillion messages were sent, up 44 percent from 2010, according to market research firm Informa.

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