Happy 20th birthday, text messaging!

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| December 2, 2012


On December 3, 1992, 22-year old Neil Papworth sent Richard Jarvis, an executive at the British company Vodafone, a text message that simply read 'Merry Christmas'. Thus the birth of a new method of communication. Originally designed to make running a business easier by sending short, abbreviated messages to workers, SMS (short for Short Messaging Service) has come a long way since 1992 and has evolved to become much more than just an efficiency tool for businesses. We now use text messages as a means of every day communication, and for some people it has even become the preferred method of communication. 

SMS didn't really kick off until 1999 when other phone companies decided to incorporate pay-as-you go text messaging plans in order to compete with each other. Even if this method of communication wasn't popular at the time, it was still something aside from basic minute plans for telecom companies to put on the table for prospective customers. So, if you're like me and were too young to remember exactly when SMS became popular, I imagine it would be something similar to the incorporation of data plans. Clearly both ideas took off, and today both text messaging and data plans play a crucial role for phone companies and consumers alike.

While SMS continues to go strong with its popularity, some would suggest that this popularity wont last much longer with the increase in free alternatives that those with data plans can take advantage of. While some plans may include unlimited text messaging due to its popularity, other plans still charge for a set number, so why would you want to pay for both text messaging and data when you can get both by just paying for one of the features? There are several free apps such as Skype, Facebook, imo, iMessage, and countless others that those with data plans can use in place of an actual text messaging plan. I personally don't think that SMS is in any danger of being obsolete whatsoever, but it is clear that text messaging is now cheaper to include in our plans and data plans have become the bill killer for most of us.

Perhaps it was just the time I grew up in, but text messaging was an extremely popular method of communicating when I was a teenager (so basically, yesterday). It was probably only because we were all in school and, naturally, couldn't discreetly call our friends in the middle of class to have a conversation about who Johnny punched in the face during lunch, but we could text about it and our teachers would know none the wiser (or if they did, they just didn't care). Text messaging has become a staple of my phone features.

I love texting. It allows me to multitask and hold multiple conversations with people at the same time. If I get busy, it's not considered rude if I answer a text message 20 minutes after I recieve the message. If I'm on the phone when I'm busy, I have a tendency to drift my attention to whatever I was doing and whatever the person is saying to me goes in one ear and out the other. Don't get me wrong, I love a good phone call once in a while because you can have a conversation that might otherwise take an entire day to complete in the span of 5 minutes, but there are those times where text messaging is just easier overall. Not to mention when I text, I have a longer time to think about what I'm going to say. I sound a lot more intelligent when I'm typing something out than when I am actually saying something out loud, and there's nothing that pleases me more than making people think I'm smart.

So happy (almost) birthday, SMS, and keep on keepin' on. From T9 to QWERTY keyboards, you've been keepin' it real for 20 years. Can't wait until next year when you can join the real party.