25 Years Ago Today, the First SMS Was Sent

25 Years Ago Today, the First SMS Was Sent
  • The first SMS was sent from a computer
  • It was sent on the Vodafone network
  • It was only in 1999 that SMSes could be exchanged over different networks

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the first text message being sent, the communication form that dominated how people across the world remained in touch for roughly two decades. The 160-character messages became the staple for people in the 1990s and 2000s, till instant messaging apps like WhatsApp took over with the advent of smartphones.

The first-ever SMS was sent on December 02, 1992 for Vodafone by a 22-year-old engineer named Neil Papworth. Interestingly, the first SMS was sent from a computer, and said “Merry Christmas.” The recipient was Richard Jarvis, a Vodafone director at the time.

It was in 1993 that Nokia introduced the SMS feature on its handsets, with a 160-character limit. In 1999, the text messages could be exchanged over different telecom networks, and the first emojis were created in Japan.

In the years since its introduction, text messaging has enjoyed immense popularity though it has been relegated since apps such as WhatsApp and iMessage came. But in the heady days of the 1990s and early 2000s, it was the go-to way of communicating with others. The character limit made people come up with innovative ways to beat it, resulting in ‘txt spk’ becoming common.

Papworth says about the SMS, “In 1992, I had no idea just how popular texting would become, and that this would give rise to emojis and messaging apps used by millions. I only recently told my children that I sent that first text. Looking back with hindsight, it’s clearer to see that the Christmas message I sent was a pivotal moment in mobile history.”

Other technology landmarks of 1992 include the founding of Palm Inc., the maker of the successful Palm Pilot PDA, and the launch of the first IBM ThinkPad.


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Further reading: SMS, Text Messages, Vodafone, Neil Papworth
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