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Text messaging celebrates 20th anniversary

December 03, 2012|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • The first text message was sent out 20 years ago today.
The first text message was sent out 20 years ago today. (Jay Directo / AFP / Getty…)

You might not believe it, but text messaging is already past its teen years.

The thumb-numbing communications format that has become a favorite of teenagers and created a language of its own turned 20 on Monday.

The very first SMS was sent out on Dec. 3, 1992 when English engineer Neil Papworth, while working at the English tech company Sema, wrote "Merry Christmas" on his computer and sent it off to Vodafone director Richard Jarvis. 

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You can hear a little more about the original text message from the very first person to send one in this commercial below by Best Buy, which was released earlier this year.

Since that time, of course, text messaging has changed quite a bit. We've gone from T9 predictive text messaging, to full QWERTY keyboard devices such as BlackBerrys, touchscreen smartphones and most recently, we can tell our voice-dictation services such as Siri to write our messages for us.

Text messaging has also gone mainstream, from being an activity exclusive to teens and young adults to becoming an essential way to communicate for many older adults.

According to a study by Experian, a research and analysis firm, 85% of adults 18 to 24 in the U.S. text message. On average they send and receive nearly 4,000 messages each month. That's followed by adults 25 to 34, about 80% of whom send and receive more than 2,000 messages every month. Even adults 55 and older are sending and receiving about 500 text messages on a monthly basis, though only about 20% of them text.

In recent years, alternative, free Internet-based text messaging services such as Apple's iMessage, Facebook messages and apps like WhatsApp and textPlus have also grown in popularity and dug into the number of SMS-based messages we send.

According to Chetan Sharma, a consulting firm, the 2012 third quarter was the first time text messaging in the U.S. saw a decline in both volume and revenue. Chetan Sharma's report listed free alternatives as the major reason for the decline.

But regardless of what the future may hold, hppy bday, txting :).


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