On this day in history, December 3, 1992, the first text message is sent

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People across the world send text messages every day — often multiple times a day or even per hour. 

The simple act of typing on a keyboard (no matter how small that keyboard may be) and hitting “send” is now second nature in the 21st century.

But once upon a time, it was a novel idea. 

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And on this day in history, Dec. 3, 1992, the first SMS (short message service) text message was sent from a computer in the United Kingdom. 

Neil Papworth was a 22-year-old engineer from Reading in southern England who grew up studying computing. 

After toiling to develop a movable vehicle satellite antenna, he went to work for Sema Group Telecoms in 1991, according to his website. 

He was part of a team that was developing a short message service for its customer Vodafone U.K.

The company sent Papworth on a site visit to attempt the paging service. 

“[I] was chosen to go to their site to install, integrate and test the software, and get it all working,” he said in a website statement.

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At the time, handheld devices did not have a keyboard, nor the ability for a user to send written messages through the device.

Because of this, Papworth used a computer to type out the first message: “Merry Christmas.”

First text message

“I typed the message on a computer keyboard and sent it to an Orbitel 901 handset. Those things were enormous,” he said in a statement. 

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He sent the test message to Richard Jarvis, a director at the telecommunications operator Vodafone U.K., who was attending a Christmas office party, according to Papworth’s website. 

The message was successfully sent — and Papworth thus became the first person to ever send an SMS text message.

First text message

Although the groundbreaking software success occurred in 1992, text messaging didn’t take off for years due to a lack of handheld keyboards. 

Papworth lives in Montreal with his wife and three children and has worked for a different software company — Oracle. 

Many people still find it hard to believe that the can’t-live-without messaging system — something such a part of daily life now — was successfully created just a little over 30 years ago. 

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