Home Science & Technology SMS texting at its 20th anniversary

SMS texting at its 20th anniversary

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Communications Market Report 2012 has found that texting is now the most popular way to stay in contact.

Its study found that 90% of 16 to 24-year-olds text daily to communicate with friends and family, compared to only 63% who talk face-to-face.

The Communications Market Report 2012 said that talking on the phone was also less popular than texting among this younger age group, with only 67% saying they make daily phone calls.

The findings come as the SMS celebrates its 20th birthday today.

The first ever SMS was sent on December 3rd, 1992, when Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old British engineer used his computer to send the message “Merry Christmas” to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone.

But the origins of the idea date back further to Matti Makkonen. Over a pizza at a telecoms conference in 1984, the former Finnish civil servant put forward the idea of a mobile phone messaging service. This was to become the SMS (short message service) standard.

According to research by Ofcom, the media regulator, the average UK consumer now sends around 50 text messages every week.

In 2011, more than 150 billion text messages were sent in the UK, which was almost triple the amount sent five years previously in 2006 – when 51 billion texts were sent, according to an Ofcom report.

It also found that texting was now most prolific among 12-15 year olds, who send an average of 193 texts every week, almost four times the UK average. This has more than doubled from 12 months ago, when just 91 were sent each week by the same age group.

The first ever SMS was sent on December 3rd 1992 photo

The first ever SMS was sent on December 3rd, 1992

Girls aged between 12 and 15 are texting significantly more than boys, sending an average of 221 messages a week – 35 per cent more than boys of the same age, who send 164 a week.

The average 8-11-year-old sends 41 texts each week, almost double the number (23) sent in 2011

The first half of 2012 saw two quarterly declines in the volume of SMS messages sent in the UK (Q1 2012: 39.1 billion; Q2 2012: 38.5 billion), falling slightly from their peak of 39.7 billion in Q4 in 2011.

This decline could be attributed to people using alternative forms of text-based communications, such as instant messaging and social networking sites.

The recent increase in ownership of internet-connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones, could also be behind this trend. Four in 10 (39%) adults now own a smartphone, making it easier to gain access to web-based communications.

James Thickett, Ofcom’s director of research, said: “When texting was first conceived many saw it as nothing more than a niche service.

“But texts have now surpassed traditional phone calls and meeting face to face as the most frequent way of keeping in touch for UK adults, revolutionizing the way we socialize, work and network.

“For the first time in the history of mobile phones, SMS volumes are showing signs of decline. However the availability of a wider range of communications tools like instant messaging and social networking sites, mean that people might be sending fewer SMS messages, but they are <<texting>> more than ever before.”