First Text Was Sent To A Mobile 20 Years Ago

Richard Suchet, Sky News Reporter
First Text Was Sent To A Mobile 20 Years Ago

Monday marks 20 years since the first text message was sent to a mobile phone.

The first SMS was sent on December 3, 1992, when a 22-year-old British engineer called Neil Papworth - an employee of the technology company Sema - used his computer to send the message "Merry Christmas" to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone.

Texting has now surpassed the traditional phone call as the most common method of staying in touch.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Papworth said he never envisaged that texting would be so popular.

"Back then I had no idea - I was just doing a day's testing. It wasn't until the 10th anniversary that I realised and thought 'Wow, that was a big thing'.

"And here we are another 10 years later and text messaging has gone on to even bigger and better things now."

According to figures released by Ofcom, more than 150 billion texts were sent in the UK last year, almost triple the amount sent five years ago.

Its most prolific users are 12 to 15-year-olds, who send an average of 193 texts every week, almost four times as much as the UK average.

In fact, most of us are now more likely to text a friend than to pick up the phone or have a face-to-face conversation with them.

But the first half of 2012 saw two quarterly declines in the volume of SMS messages sent in the UK.

The drop is being put down to the meteoric rise in web-based communications - many of which are freely available on smartphones and tablets - like WhatsApp, Blackberry Messenger (BBM), iMessenger, Google Talk and MSN Messenger.

An increase in communication through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook is also thought to be having an impact.

SMS stands for Short Messaging Service and a message is traditionally under 160 characters in length.