SMS turns 20 years today


“Hapi Bday, SMS!! 🙂 “

SMS or Short Messaging Service is a common word today. Today they are more common than phone calls, more than 8 trillion text messages were sent last year.

It was 20 years ago that on this day (Dec. 3, 1992), Mr. Papworth sent the first SMS using the Vodafone (UK) network. The message said “Merry Christmas.” This was only a test message. The text messaging service was only intended for executives helping them to exchange pager messages. A year later the phone to phone texting service evolved and was rolled out to the public. And since then there has been an exponential growth in texting.

But the real ‘Father of SMS’ is Matti Makkonen. He had put forward the idea of mobile messaging service in telecoms conference in 1984. He dislikes the title which he earned as he believes others contributed more into the idea with their work.

So on the 20th Anniversary of SMS BBC decided to interview Matti Makkonen in a unique way, via SMS. Below are the details of the conversation.


Text messaging has evolved in the last two decades. The current generation has specially used it, exploited it to make the most out of the service. SMS has its own language today; SMS today is more of a sign language. People express more with expressions than words.

SMS has played a major role in awareness campaigns, mass communications tools. But as with everything it had some unintended consequences too. Recently British Prime Minister David Cameron was in trouble for embarrassing text messages sent to former newspaper executive Rebekah Brooks, a central figure in Britain’s telephone-hacking scandal. (Equally embarrassing, Mr. Cameron sometimes signed his text messages “LOL” believing it meant “lots of love;” in fact, it is common text shorthand for “laugh out loud.”)

It has been a widely used tool during revolutions, like the one in Egypt. But at the same time it was exploited for spreading rumours during communal tension in Assam (India), forcing the Govt. of India to limit SMS.

SMS spamming and spoofing have evolved as the new security challenges. Telemarketing has shifted to Text-marketing. The Nigerian Lottery scam too has now switched on to texting.

But whatever the reason is, SMS has brought communications to the tip of the thumb, where we cannot speak we just text them. SMS has helped youngsters from helping them in talking during boring lectures to stay in touch with their valentines. On the 20th Anniversary I would like to say, “Thx SMS”.

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