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History of SMS

Image of Aleksander Piulski
Aleksander Piulski

It all began 183 years ago when the electric telegraph was invented. It was 1837 and the first device could electronically send text-based messages from one location to another. The first telegram, sent by Samuel Morse (yes, the man that invented the morse code) only travelled the distance of two miles. But by 1844, Morse had stepped up his game and had set up the first long-distance telegraph system between Baltimore and Washington with a total distance of 44 miles. The first message sent using the system read “WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT.” Trust us when we say, it was not a typo.

Another 100 years goes past before the concept of SMS appears. Developed by two men named Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert in the Franco-German GSM co-operation in 1984.

Another 8 years goes by before the world’s first ever text message is sent. It was the year 1992 and the text message was sent by a 22-year-old engineer for a project. The engineers name is Neil Papworth, a former developer at Sema Group Telecoms. Mobile phones didn't have keyboards at the time, so Papworth had to type the message on a PC. Papworth's text — "Merry Christmas" — was successfully sent to Richard Jarvis at Vodafone.

Most early GSM mobile phone handsets did not support the ability to send text messages. The first SMS gateways for cell phones were network notifications, usually to inform of voice mail messages. Nokia was the first handset manufacturer whose total GSM phone line in 1993 supported user-sending of SMS text messages. In 1997, it became the first manufacturer to produce a mobile phone with a full featured QWERTY keyboard on the Nokia 9000i Communicator.

The Nokia 9000i Communicator was the first product in Nokia's Communicator series, announced at CeBIT 1996 and introduced into the market on the 15th of August 1996. The phone was large and heavy at 397 grams but powerful at the time.

Another three years go by and in the year 2000 Dynamic Mobile Billing is established. It is also the year when texting becomes mainstream. Messages reach an average of 35 texts per person per month in the U.S. Texting was especially popular among college students prompting The Wall Street Journal to call texting “a new fever”.

In 2007 texting becomes the most popular mobile data service worldwide and used by 2.4 billion out of 3.3 billion mobile phone users. The number of texts sent surpassed the number of calls made for the first time. Apple released the first iPhone the same year and the rest is history…  

Join us tomorrow for another day in our history week where we will explore some of the reasons why the number text messages sent surpassed the number of calls being made.


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