Twenty years ago, British engineer Neil Papworth sent the world's first text message, "Merry Christmas," to a mobile phone. Although SMS (Short Message Service) was originally conceived some years before, with hindsight Papworth's message was momentous moment in the history of communications. At the time, however, the young engineer had no concept of how big texting would be. "We thought SMS was a clever way for a company's staff to send simple messages to one another," he told the Daily Mail last year, "I'd never have predicted that it would spread into the consumer world... at the time it didn't seem like a big deal."
"It didn't seem like a big deal."
Just a year later, Nokia had fully embraced the SMS, with all of its GSM handsets supporting the protocol, and other manufacturers were quick to follow suit. T9, an early form of predictive text that made writing messages on a numpad far easier, was adopted by companies like Samsung and Nokia, and text messaging exploded in popularity in Europe. By the year 2000 SMS was widespread across the globe, and in 2010 around six trillion messages were sent worldwide, a figure estimated to have grown to eight trillion today. While competing services like BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), iMessage, and WhatsApp have emerged and risen in popularity over recent years, it doesn't look like the humble text is going anywhere soon.
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