A Short Messaging Story

By Chong Jinn Wei - on 04 Apr 2012, 8:30pm

It is hard to believe that Short Message Service (SMS) has been around for 27 years. Who would have thought that a message made of only 160 characters would become one of the most widely used data application in the world with billions of users?

A short SMS goes a long way in communicating with other people.

The concept of SMS had started development in 1984 as part of the Franco-German GSM cooperation by Bernard Ghillebaert and Fredhelm Hillebrand. The key idea for SMS was to provide a way to transfer a brief one-way information using the GSM network. SMS was planned to be used for short news flashes such as weather reports, traffic information or sports score updates. The very first SMS to be sent was over the Vodafone GSM network in the United Kingdom on 3 December, 1992 from a personal computer to a personal handset. The text message was “Merry Christmas”.

Like all new technologies, SMS initially had a slow uptake. There were a few factors that contributed to this, such as the fact that most GSM mobile phones at the time did not support the ability to send text messages yet. By 1993 though, Nokia was one of the first handset manufacturers to have its entire line of GSM phones support text messaging. Another problem that cropped up was the lack of a proper charging system of the service, especially for prepaid users. Besides, SMS at the time was also restricted users to send messages only to other users of the same network only.

Today, trillions of SMS text messages are being sent everyday and SMS has become a massive commercial industry that earns billions in US dollars globally. New innovations like sending MMS (Multimedia Messaging Services) that allow users to send additional media like pictures and audio over a telecommunication network is one of the newer innovations that are currently being used today.

While the SMS market is still growing, traditional SMS are increasingly being challenged by alternative messaging services. Everyone is always looking for ways to save a buck, which is why messaging alternatives like WhatsApp, Viber, and ChatOn are popular as they allow smartphone and tablet users to send instant messages to family and friends for free over the Internet. Even Apple's iMessage allows iPhone and iPad users to message each other free of charge, provided they have an active Internet connection.

Alternate messaging services like Viber are fast gaining momentum among smartphone and tablet users.

There’s no doubt that SMS has made it easier for people around the world to communicate with each other, as it was not only easy to use but was also a relatively cheaper form of communication. Its use of short messages required users to send messages that quickly got information across. Despite this, many users are now moving to services like Viber and WhatsApp to communicate for free with a smartphone or tablet. Maybe one day, SMS will go the way of the dodo, but that is only for the future to tell.

Till next time.

Chong Jinn Wei

Chong Jinn Wei / Freelance Writer

A person who is torn between the digital realm and the material realm. Loves videogames, manga and especially Gundams though I am currently trying stay a float in the vast ocean that is the Internet.