Tech UPTechnologyThe history of SMS: a system that refuses to...

The history of SMS: a system that refuses to disappear

Texting or SMS seems to be living a new youth. Born in 1992, they have survived to this day despite the massive use of messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Telegram. Although its use among users is practically marginal, with some exceptions, we receive SMS for a multitude of services . For example, when performing a 2-step authentication with our bank. Or, receive parcel delivery notifications or a medical appointment reminder. Also, unfortunately, it is used as a means of phishing.

How was the SMS born?

It was the turbulent 80s, specifically 1984, when a Finnish engineer had the idea of establishing a simple and fast communication system for mobile networks, which were in the development phase. Little by little the idea is being cooked in the work group of Matti Makkonen , which was called that, since he died in 2015. It is the German Friedhelm Hillebran who matures the idea in 1985 and with him the protocol is established and shaped to what are SMS. 160 characters with which to communicate. The inclusion of this figure is not accidental, since it is adapted to the sizes of the screens and the concept of simplicity and immediacy. It is not about sending a long message, but something clear and concise.

But for now, we have to wait until the beginning of December 1992 for the first text message to be sent, a concise Merry Christmas from a programmer to a friend, who receives it on his device. No, don’t think it was precisely a portable phone, but an Orbitel 901. He used his computer and the Vodafone network in the UK for this.

Not between users

Interestingly, at first it was not possible for users to send SMS to each other, but these messages were intended for operators to communicate information to users. It was the Finnish Nokia that enabled delivery between its customers in 1993, and later, in 1999, it was already possible to communicate between different operators. Regulations in the field of telephony were not like now.

The golden years of SMS came with the turn of the millennium. We used them for almost everything, usually to congratulate the holidays, send jokes or jokes or communicate feelings. This led to the generation of the SMS language, which took advantage of abbreviations to condense the maximum of information in a single shipment. Yes, SMS had, and still have in some operators, an economic cost.



The beginning of the new era also had changes in SMS. The so-called SMS Premium arrived, which allowed access to special services. You could download a ringtone, an image or participate in a television contest. The cost of these messages was about 10 times higher than that of a standard SMS, which is why they were the subject of controversy. MMS also appeared later, messages with rich content, with a higher price than SMS, but not as exorbitant as the premium ones. It was a new twist in communications, prior to the implementation of the smartphone as a way of life.

Where do SMS go?

After a period of some quiet, the arrival of WhatsApp in 2009 and the lower price of calls to mobiles. SMS is getting a new boost. For example, Apple users use a messaging system similar to SMS and called iMessage, although it already has multiple sending options. Animojis or sending a location are just a few of them.

SMS are reluctant to disappear and arguably in good shape. Despite the fact that WhatsApp and the calls themselves seem to have displaced them, there are a large number of services that use them. In fact, by SMS we can even receive a link to process the signing of documents and contracts. As its founder said shortly before his death, SMS will live forever.

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