Celebrating 25th anniversary of text message aka SMS


It’s unbelievable that 25 years have gone since the first SMS was delivered. Time waits for no man. The first short message service aka SMS was delivered to the mobile phone on December 3, 1992, by Neil Papworth. Hence, the messaging system which changed the technology world is celebrating its 25th anniversary today. Papworth tested the system 25 years back by sending a simple text message “Merry Christmas”.

Interestingly, the first SMS was delivered to a mobile phone from the computer because handsets were only able to receive messages. The mobile phones were not programmed to send SMS to another phone. Hence, Papworth sent the text message from a computer. It is to be noted that mobile phone with the capability to send SMS was only invented in 1993.

Neil Papworth was working with Sema Group when he was asked to build the SMS application for Vodafone. With content MERRY CHRISTMAS, the total length of the SMS should not be more than 160 characters. In 1992, emoticons were introduced. However, it became popular only after the arrival of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

The SMS became highly popular in the UK initially. In the US, the mobile service providers charged excess¬†money from customers for texts and less for voice calls. Hence, people were reluctant to make use of the messaging system. According to Skynews, Americans will never add the ‘x’ at the end of the message because of the delay in the initial adoption of the system.

Commenting on the development, Elizabeth Bruton, curator of technology and engineering at the Science Museum in London disclosed that the first SMS was an incredibly important development in the history of mobile telephony. Bruton added that currently, mobile phones are one step ahead since they tap the rich potential of voice messaging functionality instead of simple text messaging.

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The SMS has set new benchmarks in the smartphone industry since it changed the way we interact socially. You can message people without disturbing them with not only text but also links, emojis and much more. Moreover, you can send the same message to multiple contacts.

Nowadays, SMS is unavoidable because local Governments are making effective use of it to provide information about the various benefits and schemes. You also need to make use of the SMS for performing financial transactions via banking portals. As soon as you initiate a transaction, you will receive a message with a secret code, which you should enter to complete the transaction. The main purpose of this initiative is to ensure security and also to prevent frauds.

As of 2015, over 30 billion messages were delivered through WhatsApp. The mobile-based communication platform has been effectively used by people since they can make voice and video calls as well. In addition to WhatsApp, tech-savvy people are also making effective use of Telegram and Hike apps.

Anand Narayanaswamy is the editor-in-chief of Netans. He was recognized as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 9 years (2002 to 2011) and again as a Microsoft MVP in Surface under Windows and Devices in January 2024. He worked as a Chief Technical Editor with ASPAlliance and was part of ASPInsider program. Anand has published several articles and reviews related to various software and hardware products for various software and technology related websites. He is also active on social media and also participates as an Influencer for various brands. Anand can be reached at admin@netans.com