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It's been 25 years since the first ever text message was sent

For those of us who haven't yet reached our mid-twenties, imagining a time before the internet seems almost impossible. And now, with the ubiquity of smartphones, sophisticated games consoles, and high-speed wifi, it's getting difficult to recall a time before them, too.

But amongst all the super high tech stuff, we tend to forget the more low-tech building blocks that acted as the foundation for all these new inventions to come into the world. Television, for instance, has been around for decades now - but it's still an amazing feat of human achievement. The same can be said for cameras and phone calls.

And, of course, before we had Snapchat and Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, there was one very simple way of getting a short written message from one person to another: texting.

woman texting Credit: Pexels

Amazingly, though we might consider text messaging to be one of the most basic functions of a cell phone nowadays, it was only invented in the nineties. Before that, people could send written messages via pagers, but they were not as widely used as mobile phone devices, and their functions were much more limited.

On November 3rd 1992, 22-year-old test engineer Neil Papworth sent the first ever SMS (short message service) to one of his colleagues from his computer. It said just two words: "Merry Christmas".

Recalling everyone's initial responses to SMS, Papworth said, "I don’t know if they really thought it was going to be a big thing."

Of course, we know now that it absolutely was a big thing - and continues to be today. In fact, in 2015, cell phone users sent 102 billion text messages. This may sound like a huge number, but, in 2011, approximately 150 billion messages were exchanged. The drop in figures is due to a more prevalent use of other messaging apps, especially amongst younger people.

person texting Credit: Pexels

Elizabeth Bruton, the curator of technology and engineering at London's Science Museum, spoke in an interview with Sky News about the importance of text messaging. She said: "For the very first time we [had] mobile telephones that were more than just literal mobile telephones, moving beyond voice communications to a new application of the mobile spectrum – to sending, literally, text messages."

The sorts of messages we send these days are very different to those we used to send a quarter of a century ago, however. Most networks still have the 160 character limit (which, by the way, is why Twitter used to have a 140 character limit, as it saved the extra 20 characters for a person's username), but now we can cram them full of emojis and pictures and weird millennial abbreviations that nobody over the age of 50 seems to understand.

person texting with coffee Credit: Pexels

It does seem strange to think that the average person has been on Earth for longer than the text message, the world wide web, and, of course, social media. However, the progress that we've made since the creation of the SMS is hopefully just a glimpse of all the other amazing inventions we have yet to establish in the next 25 years to come.