Blog/Industry News

Fast Facts About the First SMS Text Ever Sent

How and what we text has changed a lot over the years. Learn about what started it all back in 1992.

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From smoke signals to FaceTime, the way we’ve communicated over the last few hundred years has evolved. 

Each advance in technology marked a significant communication milestone that allowed us to share information farther and wider than before. 

There’s almost no greater indicator of progress than the famous first words shared over each medium. 

  • The first telegram read, “What hath God wrought?” 
  • The first message on a typewriter was, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”
  • The very first words shared over the first phone call were, “Mr. Watson–come here–I want to see you.”

Which leaves us with the question—what was said in the first text message?

What Was the First-Ever Text Message?

Text messaging has always had a reputation for casually sharing short, quick messages. So it’s on-brand that the first text message ever sent was…

“Merry Christmas”

The message was sent almost 30 years ago by then-22-year-old engineer Neil Papworth at Vodafone on an Orbitel 901.

He sent the inaugural text to Richard Jarvis, his managing director, who was at a Christmas party at the time.

When Was the First Text Message Sent?

This landmark holiday greeting was sent on December 3, 1992.

But it wasn’t until 1999, when texts could first be sent and received between networks, that the new medium caught fire. 

Just three years later, in 2002, over 250 billion texts had already been sent worldwide. Today, Americans alone send over 2 trillion texts a year, and four out of five cell phone owners text regularly. It’s easily one the most popular forms of communication.

Papworth revealed in a recent interview that no one foresaw the ubiquitous adoption of SMS and mobile phones. 

“Back then, it was just intended to be used as an executive pager, to get a hold of people on the road,” he said. “No one knew it would evolve into such a monster.”

A senior analyst at Informa Telecoms reflected on what led to the texting boom: “The characteristics that made SMS an essential mobile communications service [were] that it was inexpensive, universally available on devices and from mobile operators, and interoperable.” 

Now we send text messages without thinking.

What Does the Future of Texting Hold?

The benefits of SMS are as relevant today as they ever were, explaining the massive popularity the medium still enjoys.

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