20 years ago the first SMS was sent, a Christmas message typed out on a computer and sent over the Vodafone network by Neil Papworth to Richard Jarvis.  Little has changed with SMS since the “Merry Christmas” message was sent except maybe the size of the handsets ( the Orbitel 901, a “mobile” phone that weighed nearly 5 pounds) and the spelling ability of the senders.

While many sociologists have their opinion on the impact of TXTspeak on the english language there is no doubt the impact it has had on the world of communication, commerce, politics, entertainment and relationships.  For a 20 year old TXT has had a big impact.  Obviously though, there are pretenders to the crown for the king of mobile communication.  Whatsapp just reached one billion messages for a day, which is a huge milestone for them (or anyone) but every single one of the smartphones it is installed on, there is native SMS support for when the user needs a backup.  The same can be said about iMessage and BlackBerry Messenger and any other proprietary service protected by a walled garden.  Even the most basic handset has support for SMS and that is likely to continue for some time to come.  Now, for person to person messaging this is not likely to be an issue as consumers are going to pick the phone, carrier and plan that makes the best sense to them and their communication habits and social network.  But while they are spending up large on the latest gadget, checking to see if it compatible with their friends favourite apps, the ubiquitous SMS tool will come along for the ride.  For anyone considering their options to reach this market they can (and should) choose a number of channels and SMS complements richer options such as Facebook as it triggers a unique conditioned response.  Timelines and streams can be crowded and your message could be lost but a SMS to draw attention is almost always (96%) opened.

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be post in defence of SMS, it was supposed to be a short piece celebrating the success of a small but perfectly formed bit of technology that has given so much to the world and will probably continue to do so for another 20 years.

Happy Birthday TXT and “MRRY XMAS!”