In 1992, Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old software programmer working for Vodafone, sent the first ever text message from a computer to his colleague Richard Jarvis in the UK.
Papworth had been working as a developer and test engineer to create a Short Message Service (SMS). That very first text, sent on the 3rd December 1992, simply said ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’.
Vodafone NZ Technology Director, Tony Baird said, "Vodafone was the first telco to bring text messaging to New Zealand 19 years ago, with the first commercial text message sent across our network in 1998. We estimate around 100 billion text messages have been sent across our network since then.
"Technology has come a long way over the years and it will continue to revolutionise the way we communicate and share ideas with each other - it’s fun to reflect on how far we’ve come, and exciting to think about what lies ahead."
In 1999, seven years after Neil Papworth’s first SMS message, texts could finally be exchanged on multiple networks, propelling them into greater popularity than ever before.
At first, text messages had a 160-character limit. Early adopters got around this by inventing ‘txt spk’, such as ‘LOL’ for ‘laughing out loud’ and ‘emoticons’ - symbols made from keyboard characters to show emotions.
These would later inspire the creation of the first ‘emojis’ now universally used across messaging platforms, with Kiwis rating the heart emoji as their favourite over Australia’s most popular, the cheeky tongue-out winking face or the Irish who favour the poop emoji as their top pick1.
1 Aug 6, 2017 - Are Emojis Really the Universal Language of the Internet, High Speed Internet
Today, 'MERRY CHRISTMAS’ messages are now sent by millions all over the world using texts, videos and emojis. Marking the 25th anniversary since the first text, Papworth has imagined a more modern version of his 1992 Christmas message, this time using emojis.
Papworth said, "In 1992, I had no idea just how popular texting would become, and that this would give rise to emojis and messaging apps used by millions. I only recently told my children that I sent that first text. Looking back with hindsight, it’s clear to see that the Christmas message I sent was a pivotal moment in mobile history."
The first text message ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ was sent on 3rd December, 1992 by software architect Neil Papworth on the Vodafone network in Britain
The first text message in New Zealand was sent in 1998
Vodafone New Zealand estimates around 100 billion text messages have been sent across its network in the past 19 years
The first texts had to be no longer than 160 characters
Happy emoticons ranged from :) to ヽ(•‿•ノ and later inspired the first emojis which were invented in Japan in 1999