20 years of SMS
Posted Monday, December 10 2012 at 02:00
- The short messaging service has been hailed for its succinctness and blamed for everything, from breaking marriages to the decline of conversational skills
On Thursday December 6, over 42 MPs were invited to a crucial meeting via SMS, the communication service that turned 20 last week and may have contributed its 20 cents’ worth in determining the direction Kenyan politics will take.
The crux of the message to TNA and URP members of parliament was that they had to hang together or be hanged separately.
The short messaging service has been hailed for its succinctness and blamed for everything, from breaking marriages to the decline of conversational skills.
On December 3, 1992, Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old software engineer, was the first person to send a SMS text.
Papworth used a computer to send the text message to Vodafone director Richard Jarvis on his Orbitel 901 cell phone. It read: “Merry Christmas”.
The idea of a mobile phone messaging service had been suggested by Finnish civil servant Matti Makkonen over a pizza at a telecoms conference in 1984.
Significant progress was made in 1994 when Nokia introduced the first phone that enabled easy writing of messages, Nokia 2010, sending the world into a texting craze.
While few messages were sent by customers at that time, the average number of SMS sent by each subscriber per month has risen astronomically.
With just 190 bytes and 160 characters, SMS texting transcends age groups and cultures because of its simplicity, conciseness, and compatibility with all types of mobile phones.
There is even a competition for the fastest thumbs. During this year’s fifth annual National Texting Championship held in New York City, 17-year-old Austin Wierschke took home the prize money of Sh4.3 million ($50,000) in the second year in a row, reports the BBC.
In 2010, Melissa Thompson booked her name in the Guinness World Records for fastest text when she took only 25.94 seconds to type and send, “The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.”
Currently, the SMS has surpassed voice calls and email in popularity around the world.
According to Portio Research, 8.6 trillion text messages are sent each year globally.
In Kenya, according to the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) data, 986 million SMS were sent in the fourth quarter of the financial year 2011/2012. In the previous year, the figure was a billion.
The number of SMS sent annually grew from 2.6 billion in the financial year 2010/2011 to 4.2 billion in 2011/2012, a significant annual growth of 62.8 per cent.
Growth aside, SMS text can land you in a spot. In April, Benson Mugo was fined Sh120,000 or a prison sentence of 12 years for sending abusive and threatening text messages to a friend.
The SMS can also transform your fortunes.
In February, the government put a temporary ban on all SMS-based lotteries that had been making millions of shillings daily.