Happy Birthday SMS Messaging

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - "It was twenty years ago today" (borrowing from a legendary song lyric) that Neil Papworth taught the world to SMS.

On this date in 1992, the young British telephone engineer sent the first text message ever from his PC to a cellular phone. The rest is history.

The idea was something that had been discussed by engineers for years. Short text messages (160 characters maximum) originally used the standard telephone "dial pad" in the days before QWERTY keyboards were standard equipment on cell phones.

No one involved had any idea how popular it would become.

It's estimated that the technology's now responsible for 8 trillion Short Message Service epistles each year. Nokia ( NOK) was the first cell phone manufacturer to embrace the idea and add what was to become the revolutionary SMS messaging services to its GSM-based handsets.

According to a BBC News report, cellular service providers weren't sure about the appeal of SMS to the general public at the very beginning. They originally believed the idea would only be used by a small numbers of users - engineers, or possibly in the enterprise. That all changed when the idea started to catch on. At that point they were quick to see that they could charge fees for each message.

For the record, that first SMS message was seasonal, short and to the point: "Merry Christmas".

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.
Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.

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