You may text every day, but how much history do you know about the nearly 30-year-old technology in your pocket? Texting has changed quite a bit since the first text message was sent in 1992, but to get to that point, we have to take a look at the history of two-way communication.
Going way back, the earliest form of two-way communication can be traced to smoke signals in 200 B.C., which were used by soldiers along the Great Wall of China to alert one another of attacks. And of course, animals like homing pigeons and horses have been used all throughout history to deliver messages and mail between two points.
But the real advancements in how we communicate with one another took off when technology began taking over, making way for the beloved text message.
So when did text messaging start? And how has text messaging changed? Find out in our timeline below where we start right where technology first gave us instant access to one another over long distances.
Timeline: A History of Texting
When was the telegraph invented?
1830s – Samuel Morse developed the telegraph and laid the groundwork for instant two-way communication thanks to the technology’s concept of wired-based electrical systems. The first telegraph message read, “What hath God wrought?”
When was the first phone call made?
March 10, 1876 – Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call in 1876 where he said, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” Mr. Bell created the telephone based on the telegraph’s structural framework.
Two big milestones: When was the first email sent? And when did instant messaging start?
1971 – Two major advances in real-time, two-way communication happened this year. In 1971, the first email was sent, delivered between two computers on a closed network. Additionally, government agencies began using instant messaging as a chat function in 1971.
When was the first cell phone call made?
April 3, 1973 – In 1973, Martin Cooper, a researcher and executive at Motorola, made the first mobile phone call. He called Dr. Joel Engel, an engineer at Motorola’s rival company Bell Labs.
When was the first mobile phone available to the public?
1983 – In 1983, the Motorola DynaTAC handset became available for consumer purchase in the U.S. Each cost nearly $4,000 and weighed 2.5 pounds.
The age of texting: Who invented texting? When did texting start?
After zooming through the first 150 years of two-way communication, let’s get into how texting started. There are several events (and people to credit) that involve the invention of texting: the idea, the concept and the execution.
Matti Makkonen invented the idea of the text message
1984 – Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen comes up with the idea of the text message. He was having pizza at a telecommunications conference in Copenhagen.
Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert invented the concept of the text message
1985 – The concept of a Short Message Service (SMS)—what we now know as texting—was invented by Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert.
On a typewriter, Hillebrand experimented with the character length of a message that was long enough to communicate effectively but short enough to be sent over the bandwidth constraints of existing wireless networks. They determined that 160 characters was just right. “This is perfectly sufficient,” Hillebrand recalled.
When was the first text message sent?
December 3, 1992 – In 1992, British engineer Neil Papworth sent the first text message from a personal computer to a cell phone across town belonging to Vodafone executive Richard Jarvis. The cell phone was an Orbitel 901, and it wasn’t equipped to send a response.
What did the first text message say? “Merry Christmas.”
When did text messaging start? When text-enabled mobile phones were created
1993 – In 1993, text messaging started when Nokia made mobile phones that were finally able to send text messages. Nokia was the first handset manufacturer to support user-to-user text messaging on their GSM (global system for mobile communications) phone line, making texting publicly available.
Texting is enabled within mobile networks
1994 – Networks began offering person-to-person texting, but only between two people on the same network. And multi-tap texting was our only available option — you know, where you had to press the numbers on our keypads multiple times until we got the letter we wanted.
T9 predictive text is invented
1995 – Entrepreneur Cliff Kushler came to our rescue and invented T9 (Text on 9 Keys) predictive texting to give our thumbs a break.
The QWERTY keyboard is introduced on mobile phones
1997 – But Nokia really saved us with the introduction of the QWERTY keyboard, the standard layout that we all now use.
Texting gains popularity with cross-network availability
1999 – Text messages could be sent from one network to another, allowing users to text more people than ever before.
Picture and video evolve the text message
2002 – Multimedia messaging service (MMS) arrives to mobiles phones, allowing us to send photos and videos to one another.
The iPhone launches
2007 – Apple introduces the world to the iPhone and texting’s popularity soars.
Texting is now ubiquitous
Today – We now send 16 million texts every minute!
The next evolution of texting
Texting isn’t done evolving. Rich Communication Services (RCS) is the next big thing in texting and will change the way consumers and businesses engage with one another. Businesses are already using the technology and the public can expect to see a wide roll out in the near future.
Texting for business with Zipwhip
Texting with friends and family is a no-brainer, but if you’re a business owner, did you know that you can text your customers, too? Whether adopting text messaging for your business has been on your radar for a while or you simply need some background to understand how texting can transform the way you connect with your audience, our latest e-book is just for you. The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers is free and available for download.