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Guest View: SMS -- Two decades of loyal service, and counting evolution

Mike Frausing, Regional head for Asia Pacific, Acision | May 17, 2013
With the current mobile messaging landscape shifting at an impressive rate, remaining relevant and enriching the user experience is key to co-exist in today’s mobile world.

"At the time it didn't seem like a big deal," explained the young British engineer, Neil Papworth, after sending the world's first ever SMS back in 1992.  By making that move, Neil marked his place in history, revolutionising communications, as we know it today, all by sending that short text message that read "Happy Christmas." The elegant simplicity of this message soon went on to define the very nature of the platform, which has grown to become a cornerstone of mobile communication in the 21st Century.

It all began about 20 years ago when SMS was seen as a clever way for an operator's employees to send simple messages to one another. Little did the industry know the impact this technology would have on billions across the globe one day. Although the first text message was sent in 1992, it was only a year later in 1993 when the first commercial deployment of a short message service centre (SMSC) was installed by Aldiscon, now part of Acision at Telia (now TeliaSonera), in Sweden and the first commercial SMS was sent.  However, mobile messaging did not proliferate until the early 2000's when the service became a global standard. .

In Asia, the latest figures from the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore showed that about 1.98 billion text messages were sent in Singapore in the third quarter of 2012 alone. The use of text has become part of everyday communication, enabling reach to more than six billion people across the globe, with a record 98 percent of sent messages being read by the end-user, and usually within a few minutes.

So why has text messaging maintained its popularity? This is something that can perhaps only be answered through a deeper psychological understanding of the human mind. According to Internet-enabled communication expert and psychologist Graham Jones, people prefer performing a task with minimum effort. "We instinctively search for the easiest way to communicate." From its very inception, with the effortless yet perfectly apt message, "Happy Christmas", text messaging has grown to embody communication in its simplest form. In fact, the notion of SMS simplicity actually predates the medium itself.

In 1985, researcher Friedhelm Hillebrand was thinking about adding a text messaging service to the nascent cellular telephone system. In doing so he typed various statements and brief messages onto a typewriter and discovered that most messages fit within 160 characters...this notion went on to define the very nature of the medium - Short Messaging Service (SMS). The length that Friedhelm deemed "perfectly sufficient" for all message-based communication purposes also formed the basis for the wildly popular social network Twitter - demonstrating yet again that simplicity is key!

 

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