It took a while to get the message but now the world is addicted to text
When Neil Papworth sent hs pal a txt wishn him a mrry xmas bk n 92 no1 knw it wd av such n mpct on hw ppl wd comnC8 n d fucha but OMG it chngd evryting.
It’s exactly 20 years since the world’s first text message was sent by Papworth, a 22-year-old software engineer working for Vodafone. Since then, messages of 160 characters or fewer have changed the world in ways far beyond the imagining of its inventors.
Texting has enhanced communication and rendered it subliterate. Today the service is used to pay for parking, cheat at table quizzes, explain we’re on a train, flirt, break up, break news, vote on reality television shows, petition governments, organise protests, riots and revolutions and to just say “Hi, how are you doing?” or “hru?”.
More than eight trillion text messages were sent last year, with 15 million going between mobile phones every minute. In the first three months of this year alone, Irish phone users sent more than three billion texts.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. All Papworth was doing was developing a short messaging service (SMS) system to be used as a paging service for Vodafone employees.
It took years to catch on and it was not until the late 1990s that it became omnipresent with a whole new vernacular developing alongside it.
While parents might despair of textspeak, scientists at Coventry University recently found that children who use it in their messages have better literacy skills than youngsters who do not use mobile phones.