Texting turns 20 – 20 amazing facts about SMS

Uv got 2 c this – we’ve trawled a 20 year history of texting to bring you up to speed on the world’s most thumbable means of communication

The first text was sent from an Orbitel 901. Contract engineer Neil Papworth wrote “Merry Christmas” to Vodafone colleague Richard Jarvis. It was December 3rd, 1992. Owing to technological restrictions, he had to use a PC to send the message. Jarvis was unable to reply.

Phones did not have the ability to compose SMS messages until Nokia introduced the feature to its range in 1993. Texts couldn’t be sent between different networks in the UK until 1999.

By 1994, traffic on the GSM network was still light. For every two GSM users, one text was sent per month.

The UK led the texting revolution, thumbing out a billion texts a month by February 2001.

Britons now send an average of 50 texts a week, a figure dwarfed by Filipinos, who send an average of 27 texts per day.

In 1995, texting was made faster (or more confusing, depending on which side of the fence you sat) by the introduction of T9 – better known as predictive text.

A single 160 character text weighs in at 140 bytes.

In 2003, a Scottish teenager submitted a school essay written entirely in txt spk. It began: “My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we usd 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kds FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc.”

On Christmas Day in 2006, more than 205 million texts were sent in the UK alone. In 2011, Brits sent over 150 billion. Globally, over six trillion texts are sent annually [2010].

Premium rate messaging was debuted in 1998 for – you guessed it – ringtones. The ringtone business was worth US$1bn by 2002, and nearly five times that by 2008.

Texting has been directly credited with the emergence and success of microblogging sites such as Twitter and Weibo.

In 2005, the Eurovision Song Contest broke the record for televoting, counting both SMS and phone votes. It had pioneered voting by text in 2002.

In 2006, Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanan (who had also been voted Finland’s sexiest man that year) is said to have dumped his girlfriend by text.

Perhaps inspired by the above, Finnish author Hannu Luntiala penned a novel written entirely in texts in 2007. It was a first, and hopefully a last.

Think you get a lot of text spam? In China, users get more than 12 spam texts per week.

Staying with China, text speak is often done in numbers in the People’s Republic: 520 (wu er ling) sounds like “I love you” (wo ai ni) while 748 (qi si ba) sounds like “go to hell” (qu si ba). Excuse our Mandarin.

More international textery… Italian: dv6 (dove sei? where are you?); French: a12c4 (a un de ces quatres, see you around). Homer Simpson in text speak, you say? Sure: ~(_8^(|)

A 2009 trial showed that at 70mph, sending a text added 70 feet to stopping distance. Being legally drunk only added four.

“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.” That’s the official world record speed text. Norway’s Sonja Kristiansen, the current holder, keyed it in in 37.28 seconds.

Sexting first entered the mainstream in 2005. As a phrase, that is. As well as debauchery, SMS has also been blamed for falling literacy standards, political and social unrest, bullying, repetitive strain injury and tuberculosis. Okay, not tuberculosis. But then we don’t pin the others on poor old texting either. Happy birthday, SMS!

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