A Brief History of SMS Messaging

SMS (short message service) messaging is a concept that was initially developed 30 years ago by Hillebrand and Ghillebaert in the Franco-German GSM cooperation. The ‘short’ aspect derives from the 160 character limit that text messages hold.

The world’s first text message was delivered by Neil Papworth, a former Sema Group Telecoms developer, with the aid of a PC to type as mobile phones lacked keyboards at the time. The content of the text was ‘Merry Christmas’ and it was successfully received by Richard Javis at Vodafone.

In 1993, Nokia became the first handset manufacturer whose phone line supported user-sending of SMS messages. Four years later, Nokia released the 9000i Communicator which was revolutionary as it was the first mobile phone with a complete keyboard.

Similar to any novel technology, the initial growth for SMS was slow. Studies in 1995 found that the average American user sent a mere 0.4 texts per month. However, as the concept of SMS messaging grew, networks and handsets adapted and evolved in order to better integrate text messaging.

Approaching the millennium, technology advanced even further as people were given the opportunity to exchange text messages between different networks and by 2000, the average number of text messages sent by American users had grown to 35 per month per person.

These figures have grown dramatically since then with the aid of technologies like the touchscreen and the development of ‘smartphones’ in 1992. In 2007, Apple launched the ‘iPhone’ which allowed users to type at a much faster rate through the integration of a virtual keyboard. This was also the year which marked the start of SMS messaging overtaking phone calls, with the average person sending and receiving more text messages per month than phone calls.

Most Popular Form of Communication Globally

In Britain, text messaging is now established as the most popular form of daily communication amongst adults. Ofcom’s Communications Market Report found that the average Briton now delivers 200 texts per month, which is more than double the figure for 2011. Furthermore, after several years of increased use, the amount of time British adults spend speaking on a mobile phone has diminished for the first time.

58% of adults in the UK use SMS messaging at least once a day as a means of communication with friends and family. This greatly surpasses the 49% figure for face-to-face contact, 47% of speaking on the phone and 33% of communication via social media.

The younger generation seems to also follow the trend as 90% of 16-24 year olds use SMS messaging to communicate at least once a day, be that with friends or family.