H- bday 2 u

December 4, 2012 3:03 pm

SMS is 20. To mark the occasion, The Message looks back at some historically significant texts and assesses the future of messaging

It certainly doesn’t feel like 20 years since the first text message was sent. Granted, that’s probably because, in Australia, it was only in April 2000 that it became possible to send and receive texts to our collective hearts’ – and carriers’ – content (originally, it was a strictly intra-network proposition).

But still, 20 years of instant peer-to-peer content dissemination is good going, and it’s not drawing too long a bow to suggest that the success of SMS not only helped pave the way for social media, but also helped change how people chose to receive their information. SMS made short and sweet sexy, and that remains the case today.

According to Telstra, 12.05 billion text messages were sent on its network this year. That’s a phenomenal amount and yet the signs are that SMS is unlikely to see another 20 years, as Smartphone users are increasingly turning to free messaging apps like WhatsApp (not to mention Viber, BlackBerry Messenger, Apple iMessage and Facebook Messenger) as a personal content-sharing platform.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that 10 billion messages were sent by WhatsApp users around the world in one day earlier this year. So although Australia seems to be bucking the global trend by seeing an increase in the numbers of SMS and MMS sends, chances are we are currently at the apex of the texting universe and the end, when it happens, will be quick.

Already, advances in predictive text technology have seen abbreviations – once so beloved of texters – gradually disappear, so before SMS goes the way of the VHS, let’s take a moment to recall some of its highlights (and lowlights)…

  • ‘Merry Christmas’ – The text of the very first SMS. It was sent on 3 December, 1992, by Vodafone UK employee Neil Papworth, who had been developing the software, to a company director. Because mobile phones did not then have keyboards, Papworth typed out the message on computer, believing it would simply be a means of improving paging rather than revolutionising communication.

Neil Papworth sent the very first text message 20 years ago

  • ‘It’s a DELIBERATE attack  – a second plane just flew into the second tower’ – 9/11 as soon through the SMS of an unknown texter. Wikileaks recently released a full record of all texts sent at the time, providing a second-by-second account of the attacks.
  • ‘You almost just ruined my whole life’ – What would SMS be without a good old-fashioned scandal. We could have plumped (no pun intended) for Shane Warne’s well-reported predilection for sexting, but on a global scale, the whole Tiger Woods scandal takes some beating. This was the last message the disgraced golfing superstar sent to porn star Joslyn James. The others were rather more… suggestive!
  • ‘Hello from Earth’ The message send on 28 August, 2009, from the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. The target is Gliese 581d – a red dwarf star with its own planetary system scientists believe may be capable of supporting life. It will be interesting to see the reply…
  • ‘The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality, they seldom attack a human’ – the text used by Guinness World Records in its official speed-text challenge. The current record (predictive text-excluding) is 37.28 seconds.


The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.



  • News & Views Don’t Forget to Pat the Dog

    Don’t Forget to Pat the Dog

    A few days ago I posted an article called The Stupidity of Silence where I suggested that ceasing all contact when someone doesn’t give you what you want is a really dumb strategy. Here’s another one. We’re looking to sell our house at the moment. Part of the process is interviewing real estate agents. Theirs is an incredibly competitive business where all they’re offering is reputation and the perceived ability to persuade people to buy. The first agent who came […]

    Read more →
  • Content Marketing How to Make Your Content Actionable

    How to Make Your Content Actionable

    Content is not a magical formula that will make your target audience find your product and then breathlessly buy from you. The power of actionable content comes from your ability to attract the right audience, enabling them to interact with you and then to elevate that relationship to the next level i.e. for them to become a customer. So, how do you make your content actionable? Most importantly, you must give the reader, viewer or listener a sense of how they […]

    Read more →
  • News & Views The Stupidity of Silence

    The Stupidity of Silence

    It always astounds me when people in business don’t follow-up with a simple thank you email or even a note – when was the last time you received a handwritten thank you note? – after we’ve had some type of interaction.

    Read more →
  • Email Marketing Features What you Need to Know About Email Marketing for Mobile

    What you Need to Know About Email Marketing for Mobile

    It’s no secret that smartphones and tablets can no longer be ignored by email marketers—and there aren’t many more marketers out there doing so. It is a massive part of customer communication and revenue, but do you know just how massive? The following statistics come from all corners of the globe, and from many different industries. While they keep changing everyday, some are quite shocking. Here’s a brief description of everything you need to know about the power of email […]

    Read more →
  • Digital Marketing Features How to Reduce Your Media Spend & Achieve Better Results

    How to Reduce Your Media Spend & Achieve Better Results

    Digital marketing has changed the media landscape forever and marketing budgets are being spread across channels – mainly digital – that previously didn’t exist. The problem is that optimisation is not as simple as it was before; if you’re not careful, your spend can get out of hand. By optimising each of your channels, you can reduce your media spend and achieve better results – all the while proving a positive return on investment (ROI) for every dollar you spend. […]

    Read more →
  • Features News & Views Digital Marketing Lessons To Be Learnt From Donald Trump

    Digital Marketing Lessons To Be Learnt From Donald Trump

    Donald Trump teaching you marketing lessons? Seriously? Yes, seriously. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump has made the race for the White House fascinating. And fascinating doesn’t happen by chance. Exceptional marketing combined with good old fashioned, in-your-face salesmanship are central to the success of his campaign – so far. So putting aside your opinion on his politics, let’s look at what can be learned from Trump’s ‘Making America Great Again’ campaign. Know Your Audience Contrary to the opinion […]

    Read more →
  • Digital Marketing Features How to avoid digital dead ends

    How to avoid digital dead ends

    Have you ever noticed that so-called ‘express lanes’ on the road or in stores are often slower than the normal lanes? While I know it’s easy to go on auto-pilot when performing mundane chores like driving or shopping, it amazes me that people so often follow the actual signs instead of reading the signs around them. Because we humans are inherently disengaged, conflicted or uncertain as to what we should do in many situations, we’re attracted to people and things […]

    Read more →
  • Social Media When the Social Media Circus Leaves Town

    When the Social Media Circus Leaves Town

    David Bowie died almost two months ago. Soon after, we posted about the tawdry British reality TV show making money from his ex-wife’s reactions. Inevitably, her presence on the show at the time and her response to the news created a social media firestorm. Focus, of course has moved on to the latest deaths, tragedies, political intrigues and sporting victories / defeats. But it’s worth pondering the enduring impact that not being news has on the people who were previously at the centre of […]

    Read more →
  • Entertainment News & Views Chris Rock’s Oscars Lessons for Marketers

    Chris Rock’s Oscars Lessons for Marketers

    Did you see Chris Rock at last night’s Oscars? Man, he nailed it: loose, funny, topical, irreverent, black. Hang on, what was that? Black? You can’t say that! That’s, that’s, well that’s racist! In isolation it’s jarring to refer to someone’s skin colour or any other personal feature when judging work they’ve just completed. Of course, it’s also completely irrelevant. But let’s back up a bit. This year’s Oscars were all about race. After the nominations were announced in January there […]

    Read more →
  • Entertainment News & Views Surreal Reality TV

    Surreal Reality TV

    Few of us over the age of 40 have not been saddened by the death of David Bowie this week. Whether you liked his music or not, he was undoubtedly an original talent who had a profound impact on much of the culture of the 70’s and 80’s. Contrast the outpouring of love and nostalgia we’re now seeing due to Bowie’s passing with what’s happening on UK’s Celebrity Big Brother. By sheer coincidence, Bowie’s ex-wife Angie is currently a ‘resident’ […]

    Read more →