Sender of first text message 'amazed' 20 years on

Dec 03, 2012
The British software engineer who sent the world's first text message 20 years ago says he is amazed at how the technology has developed.

The British software engineer who sent the world's first text message 20 years ago said on Monday that he is amazed at how the technology has developed.

The engineer, Neil Papworth, was chosen by chance to send the message—which read "Merry Christmas"—to a director at British telecommunications giant Vodafone after he had worked on developing the software.

Vodafone wanted to develop the technology as an improvement on paging, Papworth said, and no one realised then how it would change the culture of communication forever—150 billion texts were sent in Britain alone last year.

"They thought it would be used as an executive pager so that secretaries could get hold of their bosses while they were out and about and they could send them messages and tell them what to do and where to go," Papworth told BBC radio.

On December 3, 1992, he was 22 and working for a company called Sema Group Telecoms at Vodafone's offices in Newbury, southeast England, developing what was known as a Centre (SMSC).

Mobile phones did not at that point have keyboards so he typed out the message on a .

"I used to go down there every day, help them test the system, hook it up to their network and we did a lot of testing down there over the next few weeks," Papworth said.

"Then it came to a day when they wanted to send this message and I don't remember exactly how it came about, but I was the one who was down there and so I was the one who got to send it in the end.

"The message was 'Merry Christmas'. It was to a man called Richard Jarvis, he was a director at Vodafone at the time who was at the Vodafone Christmas party on the other side of town."

Far from realising he was part of a historic event, Papworth said his overwhelming emotion was one of relief.

"Having this message work was important, so for me when it went through it was more a relief than anything else that our software had been demonstrated to work and it had done its job," he said.

As text messaging quickly gained in popularity, ordered more and more equipment to support the system.

"So it was good for business when it took off because we sold more systems, but it was also quite amazing to see how many people use it and the range of applications people have found for it," Papworth said.

Papworth now lives in the French-Canadian city of Montreal with his wife and three children and works as a software architect.

Explore further: Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Vodafone: Egypt forced us to send text messages

Feb 03, 2011

(AP) -- Egyptian authorities forced Vodafone to broadcast government-scripted text messages during the protests that have rocked the country, the U.K.-based mobile company said Thursday.

Vodafone Simply: the more the better?

May 21, 2005

Vodafone announced the launch of Vodafone Simply, a new, easy to use mobile service which has been designed for customers who only want a mobile phone with voice and text services. Vodafone Simply is aim ...

Papworth breathing technique cuts asthma symptoms by a third

Jul 02, 2007

A sequence of breathing and relaxation exercises known as the Papworth method has been shown to reduce asthma symptoms by a third by the first randomised controlled trial to investigate the technique, which is published online ...

Vodafone and Orange join messaging forces

Feb 24, 2006

United Kingdom-based cellular providers Vodafone and Orange will soon provide their customers with instant messaging interoperability. The companies unveiled the move at last week's 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona.

Recommended for you

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

6 hours ago

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay peopl ...

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

Apr 16, 2014

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

Apr 16, 2014

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

Dish Network denies wrongdoing in $2M settlement

Apr 15, 2014

The state attorney general's office says Dish Network Corp. will reimburse Washington state customers about $2 million for what it calls a deceptive surcharge, but the satellite TV provider denies any wrongdoing.

Netflix's Comcast deal improves quality of video

Apr 14, 2014

Netflix's videos are streaming through Comcast's Internet service at their highest speeds in the past 17 months now that Netflix is paying for a more direct connection to Comcast's network.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

dfwrunner
5 / 5 (2) Dec 03, 2012
These claims of "first text message" and similar things are annoying. There were text messages inherent in the communications systems/networks of many computer systems of the 60s and 70s. Sending text messages to other users within that system or network were not uncommon. Maybe the first text message using internet protocols, sure, but the internet protocols didnt invent "networking" and "messaging".

More news stories

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...