25 Years Since World’s First Text Message By Neil Papworth

Neil Papworth

The world’s first text message (SMS) was sent by Neil Papworth 25 years ago on the Vodafone network. Papworth, who was only 22 at that time, was working as a software programmer with Sema group and he was involved with the development of software for his client.

After the development of the SMS messaging application, he sent a message “MERRY CHRISTMAS” to colleague Richard Jarvis on December 3, 1992. Papworth also recreated a modern version of the same message using emojis after a quarter of a century.

In 1993, Nokia introduced an SMS functionality with which you will be able to hear a distinctive ‘beep’ to signal an incoming message. Initially, there was a limit of 160 characters for text messages. However, users found a workaround for this problem by creating messages with short phrases aka ‘txt spk’ ranging from 🙂 to ヽ(•‿•)ノ.

For example, LOL was used to identify laughing out loud and not lots of love. The emoticons symbols made from keyboard characters to show emotions were also used. These emoticons have inspired developers to create the first set of emojis. The SMS system was recreated in 1999 after seven years in such a way that it could work on multiple networks. Hence, the whole system became very popular after the discovery of emojis in Japan.

Commenting on the development, Papworth disclosed that he had no idea in 1992 as to how the text messages would become popular. Moreover, the emergence of SMS has given a big boost to emojis and messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram, which are used by millions. He added that it’s clear that the Christmas message he sent 25 years back was a pivotal moment in mobile history.

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As of writing this, the MERRY CHRISTMAS messages are being sent by millions using not only texts but also videos and emojis. As part of the 25th-anniversary celebrations, Papworth has really imagined a modern version of his 1992 Christmas message using emojis.

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