Happy birthday SMS, 25 years that changed the world

The first SMS was sent on December 3, 1992 by 22-year-old engineer Neil Papworth: since then the world of communication has never been the same

SMS are now 25 years old. It was December 3, 1992 when the young Vodafone engineer Neil Papworth sent an SMS to the cell phone of his superior using the computer. It was a very simple and concise message: "Merry Christmas" (it was sent during the company's Christmas party).

Those two words actually turned out to be revolutionary. No one would have imagined that that little message sent via GSM network would have become the first of a very long series. SMS were at their peak between the early 2000s until 2012-2013, when the explosion of instant messaging applications like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp sent them (almost) into retirement. SMS were not just a phenomenon of costume, but a real revolution in the way people communicate with each other, with the introduction of words born from the web communication into the common language.

The first 25 years of SMS

As mentioned, the first message was sent by the young engineer Neil Papworth via computer. In the initial idea, SMS (Short Message System) had the same function of pagers, also because telephones did not have a keyboard that allowed to answer messages. Only in 1993 there was the first sending of an SMS from cell phone to cell phone: the merit was of an intern of Nokia. In 1995-1996 with the arrival of the first rechargeable GSM SIM cards, SMS began to grow in volume. A growth that has stopped only in the last years because of (or because of) the instant messaging applications. First WhatsApp and then Facebook Messenger have slowly replaced SMS in the daily use of people. But in some parts of the world, especially those still developing, SMS are the most used way for people to communicate. The reason is very simple: they cost much less than phone calls.

A communication revolution

SMS were not only an epoch-making change for communication but also for language. Many terms and abbreviations used for sending SMS have become part of the common jargon. The same applies to emoticons, which have now been cleared through customs in everyday language. And the reason is quite simple: each SMS can contain a maximum of 160 characters and users have invented abbreviations and used emoticons to express a concept or a mood.