Monday, 04 December 2017 12:14

The SMS text message turns 25 and we're still using it!

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Despite the rise of data-based messaging apps vastly superior to just 160 characters, the humble text message has turned 25 and may well be with us for another 25 years.

If you want a bit of background on Neil Papworth sending the first message back on 3 December, 1992, being "Merry Christmas" without LOLifications or abbreviations, you can read more at Sky News UK here, and TechSpot here.

Another article from EDN and that from TechSpot above notes that only 0.4 messages per GSM customer were sent on average per month in the UK, something that took a while to take off because, in the UK at least, inter-carrier messaging didn't happen until 1999.

The SMH from 2012 reminds us that it wasn't until the year 2000 in Australia that you could finally send messages between carriers — I remember enthusiastically doing so with a friend who was on a different network to mine, and it was amazing to see — and soon became second nature to us all.

Neil Papworth told Sky News: "I don't know if they really thought it was going to be a big thing", which is probably one of the biggest understatements of all time.

TechSpot notes that "Thanks to the rise of programs like WhatsApp, Messenger, and iMessage, fewer people have been sending SMS messages since the technology reached a peak in 2012."

The publication reminds us of Mark Zuckerberg's statement last year that "daily activity on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp combined was three times the number of SMS messages sent worldwide – 60 billion compared to 20 billion".

Personally, I try to keep to just three messaging apps – old fashioned SMS, iMessage and Skype, but I do have WhatsApp for tech conferences I go to, with the rest of WhatsApp blocked to all but a very few contacts.

Anyone who has ever used a modern messaging service knows that you can do so much more than just send 160 characters, with app-based messaging services letting you send photos and videos in vastly higher resolution than MMS allows, as well as audio files, and the ability to make data-based voice and video calls.

So, with SMS now turning 25, which is older than hundreds of millions if not billions of children out there, the big question is when it might cease being used. But with SMS not requiring Wi-Fi and simply a cellular connection, its use and utility will likely be with us for at least the next couple of decades.

Finally, EDN above notes The Emily Post Institute offers Texting Manners advice, while texting and driving can be more dangerous than drink driving.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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