Text Messaging - History

History

1920 - RCA Communications, New York introduced the first "telex" service. Today this service is known as ‘texting’. The first messages over RCA transatlantic circuits were sent between New York and London. Seven million words or 300,000 radiograms transmitted the first year. RCA today is known as Verizon Wireless. * RCA Global official page

Alphanumeric messages have long been sent by radio using via Radiotelegraphy. Digital information began being sent using radio as early as 1971 by the University of Hawaii using ALOHAnet. Matti Makkonen has been referred to in different contexts as the "father of text messaging" but he rejects this epithet. "The SMS function is the result of extensive and open international cooperation, and GSM documents prove that it is based on the Franco-German proposal," he says.

The pager (often called a beeper) was a simple personal telecommunications device for short messages. A small display allowed the subscriber to see the number of the caller trying to contact them. A one-way numeric pager could only receive a message consisting of a few digits, typically a phone number that the user was then requested to call. But by using this paging system that had become popular in the 1980s Raina Fortini realized in principle, it could include some text as well by simply turning the "beeper" upside down. By employing this concept in 1989 Fortini sent what may well have been the first text message to a friend in Melbourne Beach, Florida. Over a years time this was their only means of communication and so they became very creative with the numbers that were vowels upside down e.g. 1's and zeros to phonetically express emotion along with actual words like "07734", which is "hello" upside down. It was a classic case of necessity being the mother of this invention because both parties were financially broke at this time, they came to rely on this means of communication to the point of creating a healthy phonetical vocabulary of more than a dozen words.

SMS messaging was used for the first time was on 3 December 1992, when Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old test engineer for Sema Group (now Airwide Solutions), used a personal computer to send the text message "Merry Christmas" via the Vodafone network to the phone of Richard Jarvis. The first text messaging service in the United States by Omnipoint Communications, the first GSM carrier in America. George Schmitt, a former Airtouch executive who launched commercial GSM in Germany, lead a team that introduced texting as a commercial service in New York CIty in 1996. Omnipoint soon offered the first texting between the U.S. and the rest of the world shortly thereafter, setting in motion the 140 character micro-blog trend led by Twitter. Standard SMS messaging uses 140 bytes (octets) per message, which translates to 160 characters (7 bits bytes) of the English alphabet using 7-bit encoding or as few as 70 characters for languages using non-Latin alphabets using UTF-16 encoding. (The commonly cited limit of 140 characters is imposed by some services like Twitter that reserve 20 characters for non-message content, like addressing.) Initial growth of text messaging was slow, with customers in 1995 sending on average only 0.4 message per GSM customer per month. One factor in the slow take-up of SMS was that operators were slow to set up charging systems, especially for prepaid subscribers, and eliminate billing fraud, which was possible by changing SMSC settings on individual handsets to use the SMSCs of other operators. Over time, this issue was eliminated by switch-billing instead of billing at the SMSC and by new features within SMSCs to allow blocking of foreign mobile users sending messages through it.

SMS is available on a wide range of networks, including 3G networks. However, not all text messaging systems use SMS, and some notable alternate implementations of the concept include J-Phone's SkyMail and NTT Docomo's Short Mail, both in Japan. E-mail messaging from phones, as popularized by NTT Docomo's i-mode and the RIM BlackBerry, also typically use standard mail protocols such as SMTP over TCP/IP.

Today, text messaging is the most widely used mobile data service, with 74% of all mobile phone users worldwide, or 2.4 billion out of 3.3 billion phone subscribers, at end of 2007 being active users of the Short Message Service. In countries such as Finland, Sweden and Norway, over 85% of the population use SMS. The European average is about 80%, and North America is rapidly catching up with over 60% active users of SMS by end of 2008. The largest average usage of the service by mobile phone subscribers is in the Philippines, with an average of 27 texts sent per day by subscriber.

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