Figures from 2010 put the estimated number of active SMS users at 3.5 billion. No other app even comes close to reaching half the world’s population, which is why stories and screenshots of funny, moving or just downright bizarre text messages abound on social media.
Add a dose of celebrity into the mix and even the most ordinary of text messages can take on new significance. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit the most famous - and infamous - SMS messages ever sent, from Day 1 of the entire texting phenomenon.
Date: December 3 1992
Message: ‘Merry Christmas’
A little over twenty-two years ago, Neil Papworth sent the world’s very first SMS message. Those two words sparked a communications revolution, laying down the 160-character blueprint for short form messaging to come in the shape of Twitter and other social networking sites.
Date: August 23 2008
Message: ‘Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee’
Nearly 3 million supporters received this text message from Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. The fact that such important news was announced this way made it clear that Obama was setting out his stall as the tech-savvy, forward-looking candidate opposite John McCain, the very picture of the old guard. Prior to that campaign, VPs were announced at televised campaign rallies; using SMS sent a very clear signal to the electorate: you use this technology, we use this technology, ergo we’re the same. By contrast, one of John Adams’ first moves as VP was to propose to the Senate that the newly-elected (and title-less) George Washington be dubbed “His Highness, the President of the United States, and Protector of the Rights of the Same” - not easy to announce in a text message.
Date: November 13 2009
Message: ‘Thatcher has died’
Canadian Transport Minister John Baird sparked a diplomatic panic when his alarming news - texted initially to a couple of friends - spread among high-ranking politicians and military officials. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on the cusp of issuing an official statement to mourn the death of the Iron Lady. Except she wasn’t dead. ‘Thatcher’ was the name of Baird’s tabby cat. The press pounced and the faces of Canada’s political establishment went Maple Red.
Date: January 2010
In stark contrast to his American counterpart, British Prime Minister David Cameron has shown himself to be a bit dense when it comes to text-speak. He famously signed off texts to former News International boss Rebekah Brooks with ‘LOL’ - thinking it meant ‘lots of love’. And people call him out of touch?
Date: April 25 2014
Message: ‘The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus & Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human’
This bizarre random fact (which sounds like a morsel of banality from E.L. Wisty) was typed in 17 seconds by Marcel Fernandes Filho as a way of demonstrating the speed of the Fleksy keyboard app. It worked, and the company retained it’s Guinness World Record title as the world’s fastest keyboard. The phrase has been used to set small-screen speed-typing records for years, and earns itself a place in the SMS lexicon as one of the oddest commonly-typed series of words.