Celebrating 20 Years of SMS


28 years ago, the very first concept of mobile messaging was set into motion by ‘reluctant father of SMS’, Matti Makkonen, a grad engineer.

The history tells us that after a year of this innovative idea, Friedhelm Hillebrand gave the suggestion of 160 characters as being suffient enough to get the message across and soon after that… which means six years later, in 1992 Short Messaging Service was introduced when the first ever message was sent across from a PC to a GSM mobile ‘Merry Christma’ by Neil Papworth. He even miss spelled Christmas by missing the s in the end.SMS

Today is the 20th anniversary of SMS. Tech writer of BBC got in touch with Makkonen for an interview over SMS. Here is just a few excerpt, you can read the full interview on BBC.

It’s been estimated 8 trillion test messages were sent last year. 20yrs ago how popular did you think sms would get and what did you think it would be used for?

20yrs ago I didn’t see sms as separate issue – it was just a feature in the revolutionary mobile communications system. Very useful for quick business needs.

It was 8 years between your idea of SMS and the first text being sent. Were you surprised it took so long?

No. Actually I felt myself as a customer, who had noticed a need. I was happy to see that the development was going on in a gsm working team. The real launch of the service, as I see it, was when Nokia introduced the first phone that enabled easy writing of messages (Nokia 2010 in 1994).

Cn u txtspk?

No! My passion is to write correct language (Finnish), using all 160 characters.

Will sms survive another 20 years – or will Facebook, Skype and other instant messaging chat systems take over?

20 years is long time… I believe that reliable convenient to use text messaging will stay forever. Is not necessary what we call sms. No more pay per message.

Do you have any other big idea for the future!?!

Not my idea but integration of mobile content display to my eyeglasses would be nice. Maybe someone is working with it?

Latest figures from Informa suggest that 5.9 trillion SMS messages were sent in 2011 with SMS traffic expected to reach 9.4 trillion messages by 2016. Text has certainly evolved from how it was initially perceived, a clever way for an operators’ employees to send simple messages to one another, and today it maintains a reach of more than 5 billion people across the globe, with 98% of sent messages being read by the end user.

New messaging services including the likes of WhatsApp, Skype, iMessage, Facebook Messenger and BBM all require internet connectivity to function, something that can delay or hinder the delivery if lost. Maybe that is why SMS will stay on for a little longer.

In countries where internet is still not famous or WiMax has not been introduced, they heavily rely on SMS.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the way we share messages has evolved over the last two decades and there is a real opportunity to combine the reach and reliability of SMS with the enriched features offered by new popular messaging applications to provide a new revolutionary Rich Messaging service.

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