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The SMS Text Message is 20 years old today! Hppy Bday, m8

Believe it or not, the humble text message celebrates its 20th birthday today. While the current generation of mobile phone users will probably dismiss the SMS in favour of BBM, Whatsapp or Facebook Chat, it was the text message that started it all.

Twenty years ago today, a British engineer sent the first ever text message to a mobile phone. Topically, it simply said “Merry Christmas”. The Short Messaging Standard, or SMS for short, was born a few years prior to the first message being sent, but engineer Neil Papworth’s first message marks the first text ever sent.

Back then mobile phones were huge, lasted for days from a single charge, and were only really used for, well, making and receiving phone calls.

“We thought SMS was a clever way for a company’s staff to send simple messages to one another,” Papworth said to the Daily Mail last year, “I’d never have predicted that it would spread into the consumer world… at the time it didn’t seem like a big deal.”

But it was a big deal. Soon everyone took to sending brief text-based messages to communicate quickly rather than making phone calls, and from there “text speak” was born. With each message limited to 160 characters, mobile phone users began abbreviating words in order to say more in a single text – “c u l8r m8”, for example.

Nokia took text messaging on board one year after the first message was sent, putting the feature in all of its mobile phones. Soon after other manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon, with the likes of Motorola and Samsung then using text messaging as a major selling point.

The text message boomed, with somewhere in the region of six trillion sent in the year 2010. That figure is expected to be around 8 trillion a year right now, which is impressive given the rise of the smartphone and internet-based messaging services like Whatsapp and iMessage.

What’s your earliest memory of the text message? Can you remember the first text you ever sent or received? Share it with us in the comments below, or tweet it to us @Gadget_Helpline