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Happy (Early) Bday! :) SMS Txt Msgs Turn 20

timothy posted about a year ago | from the compression-of-need dept.

Cellphones 54

CWmike writes "In the fast moving world of technology, there are perhaps few things that have proved as resistant to change as the simple SMS text message. While a dizzying number of options exist today to interconnect people, the text message remains a 160 character deliverer of news, gossip, laughs, alerts, and all manner of other information. It connects more people than Facebook and Twitter, has brought down governments, and in so much of the world still holds the ability to change lives. Dec. 3 is the 20th anniversary of the sending of the first SMS text message. Its origins can be traced back to a Danish pizzeria in 1984. Matti Makkonen, a Finnish engineer, was in Copenhagen for a mobile telecom conference and began discussing with two colleagues the idea of a messaging system on the GSM digital cellular system."

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How many of you know... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42154049)

your first (cell-phone initiated) text message?

(My phone didn't save, but I should be able to get a copy with any luck, I hope.)

Re:How many of you know... (1)

arielCo (995647) | about a year ago | (#42155047)

Since mine was sent from a Nokia 6120 (TDMA) right after unhiding the corresponding menu item with a makeshift serial cable (MAX232 chip + old handsfree), I figure it was "Test" :)

Re:How many of you know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42185845)

I was wrong. I don't think I can get a copy as the receiver of said text message may have deleted it years ago. :(

When you absolutely, positively (4, Insightful)

Provocateur (133110) | about a year ago | (#42154061)

When you absolutely, positively must get that message across, SMS is your friend. Thank you Matti, Cope and Hagen!

Re:When you absolutely, positively (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42154553)

When you absolutely, positively must get that message across,

Uh... assuming the other person has a phone.

Why not send an e-mail?

Re:When you absolutely, positively (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#42154603)

Wireless had hideously slow data rates. While a handful of people could pump big emails perhaps, not thousands of people at once. You'd be waiting forever.

A mere 15 years ago, people were investigating using "Cue" modules, which contractually used the short text message RDS capability of radio individual stations, but to send personal messages.

Nowadays people send messages both short and long, as well as pictures of things both short and long! Yey, now!

Re:When you absolutely, positively (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42156043)

When you absolutely, positively must get that message across... call them. I've seen way too many different locations and carriers have issues with text messages, where they end up showing up hours or even a day later or just disappearing. Many places it works great, but sometimes even certain places within the same city seem to leak text messages like a sieve.

Re:When you absolutely, positively (2)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about a year ago | (#42157879)

In my country SMS is very reliable, to the point that it may be more reliable than calls (if the reception is bad you won't be able to call or understand the other person, but the phone will keep retrying to send the message until is succeeds).

I believe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42156243)

SMS does not have guaranteed delivery, so better use a fax if you really want the message across ;=)

I don't know which is weirder... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42154077)

That SMS was invented all the way back in 1984, or that Danes eat pizza.

Re:I don't know which is weirder... (3, Informative)

schitso (2541028) | about a year ago | (#42154097)

It was discussed in 1984. "Dec. 3 is the 20th anniversary of the sending of the first SMS text message." 1992.

Popular just today in Japan (2)

fukapon (469402) | about a year ago | (#42154091)

Happy birthday!
SMS is more popular today than a few years ago because we can send it between different network operators.
Actually, we didn't have the SMS, possible to send to any phone, until July 2011.

Re:Popular just today in Japan (1)

mikael_j (106439) | about a year ago | (#42154145)

Wow, here in Sweden SMS is finally and very slowly starting to die out in favor of various online methods of messaging (Apple's Messenger thing seems to be growing and lots of people just use Facebook's chat function with push alerts on their cellphones).

Re:Popular just today in Japan (1)

fukapon (469402) | about a year ago | (#42154369)

Of course, SMS isn't a leading role also here.
We use kinds of SNS to communicate with friends but it's not useful at work.

I often receive SMS late at night.
"I sent you a document you need."
And then, I work again using the document though I want to go to bed.
Hmm... Cellphone including SMS should die at work.

overflated cost = money maker (4, Insightful)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#42154133)

Who knew that 160 chars of text could cost so much? Almost pure profit for any cellular company.

Re:overflated cost = money maker (2)

darjen (879890) | about a year ago | (#42154181)

I have google voice on my galaxy nexus. I won't ever need to pay for texting again.

Re:overflated cost = money maker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42155471)

I have Verizon. I was forced to upgrade my plan when upgrading to an iPhone 5. My wife wanted to upgrade to an iPhone 5 too where previously she didn't have a smart phone. On my old plan, we had unlimited Internet, but fixed amount of minutes and SMS messages. However, on the new plan she gets a new smartphone for just over five bucks a month extra, unlimited voice, unlimited SMS, and we share from a pool of 2GB data transfer.

Being that my wife would blow through the SMS quota and we hit local WiFi from familiar locations anyways, this was the best move I made on changing plans!

Re:overflated cost = money maker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42156395)

Here in $SMALL_EUROPEAN_COUNTRY, most subscriptions come with anything from 50 to unlimited free text messages per month. It's a real differentiator for the teenage crowd, and as you say, it hardly costs them anything, so prices dropped absurdly fast once it became a point of competition.

Re:overflated cost = money maker (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#42159819)

Actually, it wasn't always like this - in the beginning, text messages were ... well, free. Because it was assumed voice would be primary and SMS would be used sparingly, after all, you only have a 10-digit keypad to enter characters in. So even the 160-character limit wasn't a huge thing as who had the patience to type it all in.

Then what happened is people realized that instead of paying for a phone call, they could send a text for free, so it took off in Asia and Europe because it was free.

Of course, carriers now had a problem because the control channel was being clogged with people sending texts - it was meant as a side thing added to the spec, but now enough were being sent that control channels were being seriously overloaded, which is why carriers went to a variable bandwidth control channel (Europe and Asia).

So then the carriers (in Asia) started implementing limits, and eventually the limits fell and they became charged items. In poorer parts of the world, answering the phone is now bad - they instead rely on the phone ringing a certain number of times to be the code as SMS charged them and a phone call is still expensive.

In North America, texting was a late comer, mostly due to the delayed introduction of GSM. It's really only been a "big" thing for just under a decade or so (while EMEA started implementing limits before that - late 90s). So none of the adaptations really made it in.

The explosion of texting has impacted the control channel which is why carriers like AT&T actually have plenty of cell tower capacity, except they have an absolutely congested control channel. And congested control channels mean dropped calls, failure to establish data connections (but once established, supremely fast as there is plenty of voice channel bandwidth), zero/no signal as the phone can't ping the tower and vice-versa, unable to make or receive a call, and many other problems. Of course, the iPhone didn't help because its aggressive power management meant it collapsed data connections as soon as they were over (huge data users often had 200+ page bills that detailed every data "call" from this) but also added to the control channel congestion.

And yes, any businessperson is an idiot who didn't see the profit-making potential in texting - if you have a service millions are using billions of times a day that those millions consider essential and it costs you practically nothing (other than having to erect new equipment to provide new control channels), why wouldn't you charge for it? They're addicted to texting and know of no other means of communication, so you have a captive audience who can't resist the urge to text 100 times a day.

Hell, even texting is dying out slowly if you look at the progression of plans. First we had the demolition of roaming charges on your home network (where if you leave your city and go to a neighbouring one you started paying roaming fees, now it's "nationwide roaming"). Next you had very cheap long distance ("unlimited nationwide calling!"). These days, they're practically giving unlimited voice calls away (underutitlized channels). and now texting is easily becoming unlimited in the cheapest plans.

The reason? The next place is data - that's the profit segment. SMS etc., are slowly dying out as everyone wants to update their Facebooks and their Twitters and everything. LTE being exclusively packet switched (and probably variable control channel bandwidth as well) it's built for data. Voice over LTE is practically VoIP (though some carriers don't do it - using 3G to handle the voice call instead).

Re:overflated cost = money maker (1)

Wolfrider (856) | about a year ago | (#42183259)

--Yes indeed, I'm pretty annoyed that AT&T is charging me $$/month for unlimited texting, when it's basically FREE for them to provide! ~:-(

And still MMS is a hodgepodge... (2)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | about a year ago | (#42154153)

Coming from the world of email, I found SMS to be pretty clunky. In Europe its bern working fairly well now, in terms if cross-carrier messenging. Still a probkem though with group SMS and large messages. MMS though remains a mess of varying implementations and price gouging, and barely worth consideration.

I suppose... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42154163)

... we can all send our condolences to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

SMS... (1)

Nrrqshrr (1879148) | about a year ago | (#42154247)

Or the only reason why I still use a phone. Sending an SMS is somehow even easier and cheaper than making a call, today.

// Yeah I remember the good 'ol days // (5, Funny)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about a year ago | (#42154261)

The 160 character limit is a hardware issue from the early SMS phones, when you would feed an 80 column punch card into the phone. The cards only encoded 80 characters per side so you would punch holes in both sides.

Contrary to any rumors you may hear Twitter's 140 character limit is not derived from the SMS limit, it was calculated from the smaller attention span of the average Twitter user.

As to the origin of the 80 column limit on punch cards, it was derived from the width of wheel ruts in Roman roads, which was determined by the span of horses' arses.

So the horses' arses down through the ages to SMS messaging we have a circle which I'll leave you to complete.

Re:// Yeah I remember the good 'ol days // (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42154489)

Wow, you are a geezer. Shall we withdraw from thy grassy forecourt, noble squire?

Re:// Yeah I remember the good 'ol days // (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42156387)

As to the origin of the 80 column limit on punch cards ... was determined by the span of horses' arses.

Either punch cards used to be enormous and heavy and were limited in width so they could be transported by road... or operating and programming a horse works really differently than I had thought.

Re:// Yeah I remember the good 'ol days // (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#42157035)

As to the origin of the 80 column limit on punch cards, it was derived from the width of wheel ruts in Roman roads, which was determined by the span of horses' arses.

And Remington had wider horses with rounder arses?

Re:// Yeah I remember the good 'ol days // (2)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#42157283)

actualy SMS has a 140 octet limit - it just uses 7bit chars.

140 * 8 / 7 = 160

try typing a non gsm 03.38 char in a SMS and see how the number of chars left drops as it changes to utf8 mode.

SMS - yuk! (2)

FridayBob (619244) | about a year ago | (#42154303)

Darling of the telecom industry, one of the most expensive telecommunication methods ever devised.

Re:SMS - yuk! (4, Insightful)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#42154381)

Looks like you're confusing pricing and cost.
SMS does not cost anything, but is priced relatively high (compared to its cost at least).

Nice creation myth (2)

Phelan (30485) | about a year ago | (#42154311)

So two years after CEPT approved working towards the SMS messaging standards 3 dudes who nobody ever heard of met and invented the standard.

Unless the two unnamed people in this story are Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert it is a myth sold to a reporter.

Otherwise it's like the guy that copyrighted email.

Candidates for the First Text Message? (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#42154595)

"Merry Christmas?" I expected "mr jarvis come here coz i want 2 c u". Or at least "Merry Christmms."

You've just invented a technology that will change the world (or at least the communication habits of my students--don't email your prof in textspeak!). What would you say?

Re:Candidates for the First Text Message? (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#42154615)

What would you say?

danish pzza. wtf?

Re:Candidates for the First Text Message? (1)

genik76 (1193359) | about a year ago | (#42155161)

Pizza is eaten everywhere in the world, what's weird about that?

Re:Candidates for the First Text Message? (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year ago | (#42156215)

danish pzza. wtf?

Pizza is eaten everywhere in the world, what's weird about that?

I think you misunderstand. I take him to be making a gastronomic rather than a geographic statement. Typically pizza's basis is a flatbread, not a sweet pastry. I shouldn't like a danish pizza, personally.

SMS is garbage (1)

BluPhenix316 (2656403) | about a year ago | (#42154701)

SMS has some good uses but it is a device put out there to milk money from customers. I use to work for a cell phone company that will remain nameless for the time being. They said to their customers that SMS had to be on, you can't turn it off. You would get charged for SMS messages even from the phone company and you can't stop people from sending you one. You get charged 10 cent for each SMS. That was a blatant lie. In fact in their cell tower make up you can assign options to allow/disallow certain features. Infact one of the most common problems people faced would be that SMS stopped working. To fix it, we brought up the program for the cell towers and what usually happened is when their phone registered with the cell tower SMS had somehow been disabled. It was a simple check box to fix it.

Re:SMS is garbage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42156859)

In capitalist America the receiver pays for the messages.

maybe the first SMS in the UK (1)

darkeye (199616) | about a year ago | (#42154833)

But obviously not the first SMS sent ever.

SMS was developed by Ericsson. Their initial use case was to be able to send out service notifications to phone users (e.g. text messages about technical issues of the phone service, billing info, etc.). the first phones that supported SMS actually couldn't *send* SMS messages - just receive & display them!

I wish slashdot would be more prudent when selecting stories.

Re:maybe the first SMS in the UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42156019)

Even Ericsson agree with the article...


'SMS technology was developed as part of the standardization of GSM, in which Ericsson played a significant role. The first message carried the seasonal greeting "Merry Christmas" – sent from a PC to a mobile device via Vodafone’s UK GSM network on that December day in 1992.'

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42154917)

You mean we don't SMS because of space?

Re:Huh? (1)

jimbo (1370) | about a year ago | (#42155729)

You will find the truth about modern technology in the deleted scenes from Independence Day.

Cute urband legend (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42155851)

The pizzeria story is an cute urban legend. Sadly in the collective mind of the unwashed masses, a cute story wins over the real much more complicated reality of history.

SMS longevity (1)

ThePeices (635180) | about a year ago | (#42156345)

The main reason SMS is still widely used today is because there is no alternative that works on every cellphone out there.

All phones can txt. But all the other services run on certain types of phone.

This all because of Nokia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42157205)

Let's get things straight: Mikkonen worked for Nokia and he's Finnish. Danish have actually nothing to do with this. So next time fanboys message "lolol Apple beats Nokia" rememver that Nokia is the one that brought you messaging.

But could it run Linux in SMS ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42157545)

But could it run Linux in SMS ?? Small footprint Mini linux os in sms msg. could be 133tz0rs

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