On the same day that Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” hit the charts as the #1 song in the US, and Home Alone 2 topped the box office, a young British engineer named Neil Papworth sent the world’s first SMS (Short Message Service).
Although the technology was conceived by Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert of the GSM Corporation in 1984, the first SMS message was sent in December 1992 by Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old test engineer for Sema Group, who used a computer to text “Merry Christmas” over Vodafone’s GSM network in the UK where it was received by his boss using an Orbitel 901 handset.
He never imagined he’d make history. “For me, I was doing a day’s work and I just thought: ‘OK, if this thing works, what am I doing tomorrow?’” Papworth told CTV News.
“The person I sent it to, Richard Jarvis, he was at a Vodaphone Christmas party and what else are you going to send to someone at a Christmas party?” Papworth said. “I used to talk to my friends about what I do, and they’re like: ‘Text what?’ No one had a mobile phone back then.”.
The following year in 1993, Nokia’s GSM mobile phone series became the first to support consumer SMS texting. By 1995 network traffic totaled a mere 0.4 messages per GSM customer per month. That number eventually skyrocketed and in 2010 it’s estimated that 6.1 trillion SMS text messages were sent, which is an average of 193,000 SMS per second.
Today, billions of texts continue to be sent every day although mainstream text messaging has been trending towards applications such as Apple’s iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat and Line.