Twenty-five years ago, the first text message was sent. Instant typed communication has since become integral to our lives. The world now sends 23 billion text messages every day - or 16 million every minute. We type 156 million emails, 452,000 tweets and 3.5 million queries into Google every 60 seconds.
On Dec 3, 1992, 22-year-old British engineer Neil Papworth sent the first SMS (Short Message Service) to the then-director of Vodafone Richard Jarvis, in Newbury, England. It read: “Merry Christmas”.
Unfortunately, Jarvis’ Orbitel 901 phone - a state-of-the-art device at the time - did not have the technology to reply. But the seasonal greeting he received was a sunny contrast to the world’s first telegram message, sent by Samuel Morse in 1844: “What hath God wrought”.
We've come a long way since then, as this chart shows.
People now send almost three times more messages through internet-based services Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger than through SMS. However, SMS technology is likely to ensure its durability as a form of communication. It uses a smaller, ever-connected cellular bandwidth. This makes it much more reliable during high-traffic periods such as disasters, when channels used for phone calls and data become overwhelmed and erratic. Text messages may be down, but they’re not out.