Nerd Talk: The First Text Message Was Sent 25 Years Ago

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December 7, 2017


It was before the notorious Nokia brick phone, that along with cockroaches will survive the (not) imminent nuclear war, the first text message was sent between one awesome computer engineering nerd and the CEO of a giant cellphone company.

It was December 3, 1992. Unlike today, there was no sending photos of your personal zones to strangers who didn't ask for them. There weren't even screens that did more than show numbers - sorta like an alarm clock with a keypad.

Now, this text messaging catalyst didn't even take place between two brick phones. The first text sent originated on a desktop computer received on a mobile phone. The message: "merry Christmas". Engadget says:

"Engineer Neil Papworth sent the first SMS on December 3rd, 1992, when he wrote "merry Christmas" on a computer and sent it to the cellphone of Vodafone director Richard Jarvis. It was a modest start, but it ultimately changed technology and even social norms.

Did he send it to the computer voice of Iron Man?! Did Tony Stark invent text messaging? We've sent almost a trillion text messages since (including the 21 my father has managed over the last 10 years of texting).

It's interesting how as a culture we went from hieroglyphs and cave paintings to books and letters via typewriters and printing presses. Then we invented phones and used them to figure out how to send characters between machines. We got to email, then blogs, then Buzzfeed. From there we've started stopped talking on the phone and started sending emoticons to communicate our feelings simpler than words... like we did with hieroglyphs and cave paintings. We even figured out how to make an eggplant a symbol for wieners so we wouldn't lose the ability to gross each other out with sex. Congrats on our future of building pyramids to the robots!

Back when gasoline cost you $1.05/gallon, the internet was something that you had to tie up your phone line with using the insane connection noises on AOL. Cell phones were massive plastic covered bricks also suitable for breaking your own window to get into your locked car. Unforgiven and Last of the Mohicans played in theaters and "Under the Bridge" and "Baby Got Back" dominated the radio.

Here's a list of things that are older than you from 1992 if you weren't alive when text messaging began:

Zelda: A Link to the Past
Rage Against the Machine self-titled album
Alice in Chains Dirt
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Mortal Kombat
REM Automatic for the People
Dr. Dre* The Chronic

*not a medical marijuana doctor