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 was sent in 1992, but to get to that point, we have to take a look at the origins of two-way communication.

If you really want to go 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 let’s start our timeline when technology took over and gave us an instant way to talk to one another over long distances.

Watch our video then take a look at our timeline below for the full history of texting.

Timeline: A History of Texting

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.

March 10, 1876
Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call. He created the telephone based on the telegraph’s structural framework.

Two major advances in real-time, two-way communication happened this year. The first email was delivered between two computers on a closed network, and government agencies began using instant messaging as a chat function.

April 3, 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.

Mobile phones became available for consumer purchase in the U.S. Each cost nearly $4,000.

Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen comes up with the idea of the text message. He was having pizza at a telecommunications conference in Copenhagen.

The concept of a Short Message Service (SMS), what we now know as texting, was developed by Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert. On a typewriter, they 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 the sweet spot. “This is perfectly sufficient,” Hillebrand recalled.

December 3, 1992
British engineer Neil Papworth sends the first text message reading “merry Christmas” from a personal computer to a cell phone across town belonging to Vodafone executive Richard Jarvis. The cell phone was an Orbitel 901 and wasn’t equipped to send a response.

Nokia was the first handset manufacturer to support user-to-user text messaging on their GSM (global system for mobile communications) phone line.

Networks began offering person-to-person texting, but only between two people on the same network. And multi-tap texting was our only available — you know, where you had to press the numbers on our keypads multiple times until we got the letter we wanted.

Entrepreneur Cliff Kushler comes to our rescue and invented T9 (Text on 9 Keys) predictive texting to give our thumbs a break.

But Nokia really saves us with the introduction of the QWERTY keyboard, the standard layout that we all now use.

Multimedia messaging service (MMS) arrives, allowing us to send photos and videos to each other.

Apple introduces the world to the iPhone and texting’s popularity soars.

We now send 16 million texts every minute!

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. Check out how the Sacramento Kings use RCS in this blog post.

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 why technology 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!

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