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25 years since the world’s first text message

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In 1992, Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old software programmer from the UK, sent the first ever text message from a computer to his colleague Richard Jarvis.

Neil had been working as a developer and test engineer to create a Short Message Service (SMS) for his client, Vodafone. That very first text, sent on the 3rd December 1992, simply said, “Merry Christmas.”


Neil Papworth who sent the world’s first text message on 3 December 1992.


One year later in 1993, Nokia introduced an SMS feature with a distinctive ‘beep’ to signal an incoming message.

At first, text messages had a 160-character limit. Early adopters got round this by inventing ‘txt spk’, such as LOL (laughing out loud) and emoticons – symbols made from keyboard characters to show emotions. These would later inspire the creation of the first emojis (characters symbolising emotions and the ideas of things).

In 1999, seven years after Neil’s first SMS message, texts could finally be exchanged on multiple networks, propelling them to greater popularity than ever before.

Today, Merry Christmas messages are sent by millions all over the world using texts, videos and emojis. Marking the 25th anniversary since the first text, Neil has imagined a more modern version of his 1992 Christmas message, this time using emojis.

Neil said: “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.”


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