Though it might seem like a more recent invention, today marks the 20th anniversary of the text message.
On December 3, 1992, 22-year-old Neil Papworth, a British engineer working for Sema Group Telecoms, sent the first short message service (SMS) to Richard Jarvis of Vodafone.
It was sent from a computer to a cell phone and said “Merry Christmas.”
“It happened that day that Vodafone wanted to try sending a message to Richard Jarvis, one of the directors there, who was at a Christmas party. So we sat at the computer and typed him a message and then sent him the message ‘Merry Christmas,’” Papworth told ABC News. “For me it was just another day’s testing, it didn’t seem to be anything big at the time.”
The origin of text messaging actually dates back to the 1980s and a man named Matti Makkonen, also known as the “father of SMS.”
Makkonen, a Finish engineer, reportedly thought up the idea at a 1984 telecommunications conference, but doesn’t consider himself the inventor of SMS because it took others years to come up with the technology for text messaging.
A few decades later, texting has become as common as calling.
A 2011 Pew Research Center survey found that three-quarters of cell phone owners send and receive text messages, and 31 percent of them said they prefer texting to talking on the phone.
But the survey also found that texting and speaking on the phone had leveled off for the adult population.
Last month, the New York Times reported that the total number of messages sent per U.S. cell phone user each month declined for the first time, from an average of 696 texts per month to 678.