Tags: text | sms | 20 | birthday

SMS Birthday: 20 years After First Text Message, 200,000 Now Sent Per Second

Monday, 03 Dec 2012 07:41 PM

By Dale Eisinger

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It’s the 20th anniversary of those prolific tiny scripts -- text messages.
Neil Papworth, a British engineer, sent the world’s first cellular text message on Dec. 3, 1992. The sentiment was a common holiday one: “Merry Christmas.”

Papworth was “a lonely software engineer just doing my job,” as he puts it. Mobile phones at the time did not have keyboards, so Papworth had to key the message in using a PC. He was working at Sema Group Telecoms and sent the message to Richard Jarvis of Vodafone -- who happened to be at a Christmas party.

A text message is also known as SMS, or Short Message Service. They are largely known as so in Europe, where the technology first bloomed. A decade later, U.S. consumers were sending three billion texts a year, as opposed to the 70 billion messages Europeans users were keying to one another. Though it took a number of years for the technology to catch on in the states -- due mostly to lack of crossover among cellular carriers -- by 2007, Americans were receiving more text messages than phone calls.

Ten years ago, on global average, people were sending about 30 billion texts a month. Now, the numbers are astounding: It’s estimated by the
International Telecommunications Union that nearly 200,000 text messages are sent every single second.

Despite its apparent ubiquity, text messaging started to fall off a bit in recent years. The busiest text message day of the year is routinely Christmas Eve. In 2011, the volume of texts sent that day dropped worldwide an average of 14 percent compared to 2009’s text activity.

While it is still a convenient and relatively cheap method of communication, more streamlined mobile access to Twitter and Facebook has led mobile users to different avenues to keep in touch. If the technology has peaked, as some analysts have speculated, does it mean we may not be wishing the SMS its 30th birthday?

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