Home Technology Thirty years of SMS, the invention that changed communication forever

Thirty years of SMS, the invention that changed communication forever

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Thirty years of SMS, the invention that changed communication forever

30 years have passed since the first SMS was delivered, sent in 1992 by Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old engineer. The content? A classic of this period: “Merry Christmas”. It then took a few years for the technology to take hold, both because cell phones were almost exclusively the preserve of very wealthy people, and because there were still no shared protocols for using them across the various networks. However, already in 1993 Nokia had thought of a sound to identify reception and in 1997 it released the first telephone with a full keyboard, the Communicator.

Then around 1999, text messages entered everyone’s phones and, even if we perhaps didn’t realize it at the time, they would forever change the world of telecommunications and our relationship with cell phones first and then smartphones.

The guide

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The success of SMS (Short Message Service), as always happens, was a combination of technological and social factors. At first they were mainly used to remind appointments or answering machine notifications, but over time GSM technology began to take hold and the first pay-as-you-go phone contracts arrived, essential for opening up the market to millions of kids who couldn’t wait to have a personal telephone. Simultaneously, Nokia sensed the beginning of a new market, that of young people, and began to create phones designed for them and suitable for communication via SMS.

In a short time, text messages became the way of communicating for a generation that soon learned to get around the limits of technology by studying terminologies and abbreviations that allowed to condense most of the information into 160 characters (and who knows how many people who wrote with K today he is scandalized by the italics…). Emoticons came out of the first internet chatrooms to enter telephones and provide context to messages, a lot of phone calls suddenly became an epistolary relationship.

Obviously every message was precious because, it seems strange to say it today, but those who were there remember well how important it was to have the various Summer Cards and Christmas Cards to have more of them and obviously the operators who offered more messages in their subscription were more attractive. a bit like today we are looking for more Giga for the internet. And who remembers the websites that allowed you to send someone? Obviously to play bad jokes, or those that allowed you to use them to receive wallpapers and ringtones, promoted with the horrible commercials we listen to today with a silly nostalgic veil? Then of course there was the ultimate proof of love: keeping your favorite messages in memory, knowing full well that the first GSM phones were able to store a maximum of ten.

The case

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For the generation of those teenagers it was an incredible change, the first generation to be able to count on their own telephone, without undergoing the filter of a parent who perhaps answered first or listened to the calls, in which the telephone became a sort of diary, with the messages kept a bit like those exchanged in class, written in jargon that only the initiates could understand.

In retrospect, the impact of messages on our communications can only be seen as something enormous. An atomization of communication that goes from being a dialogue to something more like a letter. At the same time more intimate and more depersonalised. Greeting calls became messages of good wishes and the same goes for birthdays, but also the gesture of writing to a distant partner to say goodnight, mixed with parents who reassure themselves with a text message about children staying up late or with a message sent by hidden in class.

With SMS, the telephone became more and more an extension of us, a space of expression that we could use not only with voice and not only with real-time communication, but more mediated and asynchronous.

Today, in the era of endless chats, WhatsApp and Telegram, it feels strange to receive an SMS, but they are still widely used for the initial purpose for which they were born: service communications, security codes, notifications from the bank, which is why it is important to stay Beware of any scam attempts. We are led to believe that what comes from SMS is safe, a bit like Morse code in wartime.

Surely, however, the stories we lived, the people we loved, the words they said to us remain. And for this reason, like many others, for a long time I kept the messages of those who were no longer there on my phone: a strange way of interacting with technology, which looks to the past rather than to the future, which keeps the only proof of what it was.

The decision

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