It’s been 30 years and texting is different. What has changed? – Gift

 It's been 30 years and texting is different.  What has changed?  - Gift

On December 3, 1992, Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old British software programmer, made history while working 100 kilometers west of London: he sent the first-ever text message.

“I was part of the team that a Short Message Service Center for our client, Vodafone UK, and I were chosen to go to Newbury to install, integrate and test the software and get everything working. Initially the idea was that they would essentially use it as a paging service – no one had any idea how massive the texting phenomenon would become,” Papworth wrote on his website.

But the message was not sent as it is now. “Since mobile phones didn’t have a keyboard yet, I typed the message on a computer. It said ‘Merry Christmas’. [Feliz Natal, em português] and I sent it to Richard Jarvis, from Vodafone, who was enjoying his office Christmas party at the time,” he recalled.

With this, Jarvis, director of the company in the United Kingdom, received on his Orbitel 901 mobile phone a simple content message that is now repeated every December by millions of users. But that first holiday wish marks the beginning of the calling Short message service [Serviço de Mensagens Escritas]the text.

The first step was taken and SMS first appeared on mobile phones in 1993, when Nokia introduced a distinctive sound to indicate incoming messages on its devices.

In the beginning, SMS also served to…

End marriages. Muslim authorities in Singapore banned divorces via mobile phone text messaging services in August 2001 after several marriages ended this way in the local Muslim community, sparking heated controversy in the country. In 2002, a human rights organization launched a campaign in India against the messages responsible for many divorces.

God speaks. It is said that God writes straight with crooked lines, and in Singapore He spoke to 15,000 believers via SMS service. “Thank Me. It’s Friday. Signed: God,” read a message from a 2001 ad campaign commissioned by the Movement of Churches for Singapore.

Promote the Algarve. Tourists who visited the Algarve in 2002 could receive useful messages on their mobile phones about the cultural and sporting events that awaited them in the region for €0.50, as part of a project by the Algarve Tourism Board.

Simplify prayers. In 2002, the GospelSearch website translated the Lord’s Prayer into Norwegian in an SMS version, reducing the prayer to 160 language characters. Then they wanted to expand the translation to different passages of the Bible.

Send notifications. In 2003, Agência Lusa began distributing news through SMS alerts on mobile phones on the TMN network, at a cost of 0.152 euros per message. Receiving information about the time of drawing results for social games (lottos and lotteries) was also among the available options.

However, it took several years for SMS communication to become a phenomenon. Its popularity only started to grow in 1999, when it became possible to exchange SMS between different GSM networks. From that moment on, no one doubted that this technology would change everyday life. For example, in 2002, the Portuguese sent 51 million electronic messages by mobile phone on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with the TMN network, now MEO, suffering the greatest overload.

Over the years, SMS features have changed, mainly due to the existence of online applications that allow sending not only text messages, but also images. emojis and gifs and even videos or documents, as is the case with WhatsApp.

However, do not think that they are not yet a way to reach people: in the middle of a pandemic, they served to call for vaccination and by February 2022, more than 70 million text messages had been sent in Portugal, using the number 2424. still seen as a safe tool and a good means of advertising.

A lot has changed in 30 years, but texting is here to stay

In the 1990s and early 2000s, the main contributors to the explosion of SMS were young people, whose access to this technology was facilitated by the advent of prepaid tariffs and the low cost of the service in relation to voice communications.

So they were the ones who quickly got used to writing with their thumbs and created a parallel grammar made of abbreviations and combinations of numbers and letters. Since text messages had a limit of 160 characters – which still happens, but some mobile phones already allow more and are charged by operators as multiple communications – users had to get creative. And so the specific jargon of the SMS world – for example, the use of ‘k’ to write ‘que’ – was born, as well as the emoticons, symbols made from keyboard characters to show emotions. That is, the ancestors of emojis🇧🇷

A “Merry Christmas” auctioned for more than 100,000 euros

The first SMS in history was auctioned in December 2021 as an NFT (“Non Fungible Tokens” or “Non Fungible Token”) for 107,000 euros – up to 132,680 euros after adding the auction fee – at an event organized by Aguttes house in France.

The buyer, whose identity has not been disclosed, is Canadian and works in the field of new technologies, and is now the exclusive owner of a unique digital replica of the original communication protocol that sent that text message through the mobile phone.

NFT are digital assets that, thanks to a blockchain technology called “blockchain”, are registered as unique, non-replicable and whose transaction history can be tracked from the origin of the “work”.

The operator Vodafone announced at the time that it would donate the value of the auction to UNHCR [Alto Comissariado das Nações Unidas para os Refugiados]🇧🇷

In 2017, on the 25th anniversary of the first SMS, Neil Papworth stated that he was initially unaware of the impact of what he had done. “In 1992 I had no idea how popular the Christmas message would become and where it would lead emojis and messaging apps used by millions of people,” he said.

“I only recently told my kids that I sent that first text. Looking back, it is now clearer to see that the Christmas message I sent was a pivotal moment in mobile phone history,” the programmer added.

According to a 2001 Ipsos Institute survey, 43% of respondents said they had already sent SMS (Short Message System) from their cell phone and 27% said they used this form of communication “in general”.

Sending text messages differed greatly by age. Short messages were most popular among young people: 75% of 15-19 year olds and 56% of 20-24 year olds often exchanged them. Cheaper than calling, SMS was also seen as a way to control the mobile phone bill.

But let’s look at the numbers today. With the explosion of applications that allow you to send messages for free, the number of SMS sent has decreased.

No rates roaming when you access a Wi-Fi network, the apps have an undeniable advantage. Among users aged 16 to 24 in Europe, application and social network usage grew by 53.73% in 2021, while SMS fell by 29%, according to a study by the Body of European Regulators cited by AFP.

In the UK, the birthplace of SMS, the volume of text messages has fallen four times in 10 years to less than 10 billion in the first half of 2022, according to Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulator.

The trend is no different in Portugal. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), SMS traffic has been declining over the years. Some 16.9 billion messages were sent in 2017, in 2021 there will be 10.7 billion, compared to 11.3 in the previous year.

However, SMS still has a future ahead of it, but probably more outside Europe. In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, about 10 billion text messages will be sent in 2021, up 15% from the previous year, according to a report by the Nigerian Communications Commission.

While the vast majority of Nigerians own a mobile phone, in 2021 only 44% of the population had access to the internet. On the other hand, sending an SMS in the country costs 4 naira (0.008 euros) so much cheaper in comparison cost of 2 GB internet. It should also be noted that half of Nigerians live on less than two euros a day.

In contrast, in addition to its benefits in some countries, SMS supporters say it remains an essential tool for verifying a user’s identity for a bank transfer, confirming the arrival of an order, or receiving a security code.

In France, “SMS is one of the two possible mandatory channels to alert the population” in the event of a natural disaster, health emergency or terrorist, recalls Marc-Antoine Dupuis, son of engineer Philippe Dupuis, who is considered the co-inventor of the .GSM standard that enabled the advancement of SMS. Please bear in mind that the Civil Protection also uses this tool for alarms related to the weather or fire hazard.

SMS also remains a preferred tool for advertising, which is why an investment of more than USD 50 billion is expected worldwide in 2023, according to Juniper Research.