Happy Birthday SMS! World's First Text Message Sent 25 Years Ago

By Aaron Mamiit | Dec 04, 2017 06:20 AM EST

Dec. 3 marks the 25th birthday of SMS, or more popularly known as text messages, which helped shape mobile phone technology and communication standards.

While text messages have been a staple in smartphones, users have since adopted many other communication methods that mostly rely on an internet connection. Does this mean that SMS technology will soon fade away?

The First Text Message Ever Sent

On Dec. 3, 1992, Sema Group software architect Neil Papworth typed "Merry Christmas" on a computer and sent it to the Orbitel 901 handset owned by then-Vodafone director Richard Jarvis. To make you feel ancient, on that day, "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston was the top song in the United States and Home Alone 2 was leading the box office.

"I don't know if they really thought it was going to be a big thing," Papworth said. Little did he know that SMS would become more than just "a big thing."

A year after the first text message ever sent, the first commercial SMS service was established in Finland, with Nokia becoming the first company to release mobile phones that can send text messages.

The adoption of SMS was actually slow at first, with only 0.4 text messages sent per month in 1995. However, as smartphone technology developed and text messages became easier to use, the popularity of SMS ballooned. In the United States alone, 12.5 billion text messages were sent per month in 2006, a figure that became 45 billion per month just a year later. Last June 2017, 781 billion text messages were being sent in the United States per month.

Will SMS Stick Around?

SMS technology gave rise to smartphones because it provided an essential function for the mobile phones of the past. Text messages, which can only contain a maximum of 160 characters, also played a part in Twitter's decision to initially set its character limit to 140 characters, though the Twitter limit has now been doubled.

With 25 years under its belt, many people may be wondering if the end of the line is near for SMS. This is because apps such as Apple's iMessage, Google's Hangouts, and Facebook Messenger have become very popular.

Text messages, however, might not be going away soon. SMS is a very practical and easy-to-use communication method, especially for areas and countries that do not provide users with reliable internet connections. Maybe we'll even see SMS reach its 50th birthday?

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