SMS SOS! Text messages mark 20-year anniversary but have ALREADY been overtaken by Twitter and instant messaging
Number of texts sent annually has fallen by one billion since last yearExperts say new ways of communicating – such as Tweeting and instant messaging – are taking over
09:01 GMT, 3 December 2012
Addictive: Text messages took the world by storm in 1998, but less than two decades later it is in decline as new forms of messaging have become more popular
A revolutionary form of communication is in decline – just 20 years after it changed the way that people interact with each other.
Used by four billion people around the world, the SMS (Short Message Service) took the world by storm after its birth in December 1992.
But after two decades of fervently bashing keypads with our thumbs, media watchdog Ofcom has reported a decline in the volume of texts sent.
The number of text messages sent in Britain peaked at 39.7billion at the end of last year, but is now down to 38.5billion, following two quarterly declines.
The fall has been attributed to new forms of communication which have taken over from the basic SMS system.
Owners of modern smartphones now have a plethora of ways of communicating with each other – including Tweeting and instant messaging.
The first ever text – sent in December 1992 – simply read 'Merry Christmas', after being sent by engineer Neil Papworth from his personal
computer to Vodafone's Richard Jarvis.
This humble beginning kicked off a cultural and social revolution in the developed world, and texts have been used to seal business deals and even convey marriage proposals.
Advanced: Many mobile phones now use the internet and their owners have more choice in how to communicate with friends and contacts, including Twitter and instant messaging
The trend of texting exploded among children in 1998 with the introduction of the 'pay as you go' system by four major phone companies.
But it was only in 1999 that texting became a way of life when users could start sending text messages to people using different mobile networks to their own.
Texts soon completely transformed the way we write by introducing new abbreviations to the English language now known as 'text speak'.
HISTORY OF TEXT MESSAGING
Today is the 20th anniversary of the first ever text message.
It was sent by 22-year-old engineer
Neil Papworth, pictured right, on December 3, 1992, whom was sitting at a computer
terminal in Vodafone's Newbury HQ where his colleague were enjoying
their Christmas party.
He had to type the text on a computer
before sending it because mobile phones did not keyboards – these were
not developed until 1997.
His text to the company's technical director Richard Jarvis' Orbitel 901 mobile phone simply read 'Merry Christmas'.
Originally intended as a pager for contacting people on the road, the first text message spawned a revolution in communication.
But it was not until 1999 that messages could be sent and received between different networks.
Although a first, the concept of text messages had been developed eight years earlier by the Franco-German GSM corporation.
Since the Mr Papworth's pioneering text, SMS – or short message service – has taken over the world.
It has been used to organise
revolutions during the Arab Spring and to coordinate relief efforts and
raise money for survivors of natural disasters such as the Boxing Day
Tsunami and the Haiti earthquakes.
With 150 billion text messages sent
last year in the UK – almost triple the number sent in 2006 – texting
became the most common form of communication.
It is called short message service
because in English a text can only have 140 characters. In other
alphabets, such as Chinese, texts can only have 70 characters.
The average 12 to 15-year-old send 193 texts a week and politicians have blamed the
abbreviated language on the demise of literacy among the youth as
punctuation, grammar and capitalisation are largely ignored in favour of
Text messages sent around the world now generates 73.5billion a year with the average Brit sending 50 texts a week.
It gave rise to a number of new challenges for modern society, including bullying, the dangers of texting while driving and 'sexting' – where sexually explicit photographs or messages are sent by mobile phone.
As well as giving bullies an easy way to torment their victims out of school, the trend of sexting among teens has also caused concern.
A 2008 survey by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found one in five teen girls surveyed admitted to electronically sending nude or semi-nude images of themselves.
One-third of teen boys and one-quarter of teen girls say they were shown private nude or semi-nude images.
According to the survey, sexually suggestive messages sent by text, e-mail, and instant messaging were even more common than images.
Nearly 40 per cent of teens admitted to having sent or posted such messages, and half of teens have received them.
More recently, a 2012 study by the University of Utah Department of Psychology found nearly 20 percent of the students said they had sent a sexually explicit image of themselves on their mobile.
James Thickett, Ofcom's director of
research, told The Independent: 'For the first time in the history of
mobile phones, SMS volumes are showing signs of decline.
availability of a wider range of communications tools, like instant
messaging and social networking sites, means people might be sending
fewer SMS messages, but they are communicating electronically more than
might be on decline in favour of alternative – and often cheaper –
forms of electronic communication, experts warn that it is our personal
relationships that are really at risk.
Ironically, a new study has found
that while electronic communication has made it easier than ever for
people to stay in touch, it has actually started to erode out ability to communicate with others.
The communication revolution: The average Brit sends 50 texts a week while average teenagers send 193 texts a week
And texting has even spawned its own language…
Here are just a selection of the most common words that have infiltrated not just the way we write but also the way we speak:
LOL – Laugh out loud TBH – To be honest B4N – /12/02/article-2241743-1649AB42000005DC-825_634x424.jpg” width=”634″ height=”424″ alt=”New trends: But experts fear that the increased use of electronic communication is causing people to lose the ability to communicate with others in person ” class=”blkBorder” />
New trends: But experts fear that the increased use of electronic communication is causing people to lose the ability to communicate with others in person
THE TEXTS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD
1992: 'Merry Christmas', the first text message ever written was sent by Neil Papworth in 1992.2004: Rebecca Loos claimed she had an affair with David Beckham while he was living in Spain and said the pair texted each other as much as 30 times a day. Loos said they had 'text sex' on average twice a week. She said in an interview at the time: 'He always instigated it, I would never be the first to text. You have got to remember he is a married man. What if he is at lunch with Victoria You have to wait for him to come to you.' Beckham said the affair claims 'ludicrous'.2009: Canada's transport minister, a Conservative called John Baird, sent a text to Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, telling him that his cat Thatcher had died. But Harper took the message, which simply read 'Thatcher has died', to mean the former British Prime Minister had passed away. The prime minister asked an aide to prepare an official statement and the rumour mill went into overdrive. The British government later confirmed that Margaret Thatcher was very much alive.
JANUARY 2011: With phone lines and email being monitored, text messages were the perfect way for activists across the Middle East to organise events and rally support during the Arab Spring. Such was the power of text communication that SMS was blocked in Egypt on January 27, 2011.JULY 22, 2011: Anders Breivik launched a devastating attack in Norway, bombing Oslo and then shooting 69 people – mostly teenagers – on the island of Utoya. A 16-year-old girl caught on the island sent a message to her mother that read 'tell the police to hurry. People are dying here!'She could not call her mother as the noise would have attracted attention but through text was able to keep her family informed of the unfolding situation.JULY 23, 2011: Amy Winheouse sent a text reading 'I’m gonna be here always xx But are you OK xx' to her friend Kristian Marr at 3.10am. Marr was asleep when the message came through. : The infamous text exchange between ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and David Cameron was revealed during the Leveson inquiry earlier this year. In one text, she wrote 'Brilliant speech. I cried twice. Will love 'working together'. In another the Prime Minister wrote: 'The horse CB (Brooks' husband Charles Brooks) put me on. Fast unpredictable and hard to control but fun DC'. He also signed off his messages 'LOL' – thinking it meant 'lots of love' instead of 'laughs out loud'. The texts were part of a cache handed to the Leveson Inquiry.