There is a general misconception about the first person to have ever sent out a text message. It was not, as many reference websites claim, former NASA engineer Edward Lantz. Rather, Lantz was simply the person who relayed to the world in 1989 news of the first ever text message sent from New York City to Melbourne Beach, Florida by colleague Raina Forteni.
Forteni’s historic transmission via Motorola brand beepers was a rudimentary message featuring a string of upside-down numbers that doubled as sounds and English-language words. It wasn’t until four years later that Riku Pihkonen, an engineering student working with Nokia in Finland, was able to send the first Short Message Service (SMS) to and from Global System Mobile (GSM) phone devices.
Early Adoption of Texting
The most aggressive early adoption of SMS and, subsequently, larger capacity Multimedia Message Service (MMS) via cell phones occurred during the 1990s and early 2000s in Europe. Sweden was an early leader, with upwards of 100% mobile phone penetration thanks to the ownership by individuals of multiple cell phones, although the Scandinavian country was eventually overtaken in this department by tiny Luxembourg. Eventually though, the U.S. was able to catch up to the rest of the SMS world, sending 1.5 trillion text messages in 2009.
The Bad and the Good Side of Texting
With the explosive year-to-year growth of text messaging have come societal concerns. For example, in a spring 2007 report published by Ireland’s Department of Education, text messaging was blamed as a major cause of teenage illiteracy. Meanwhile, the rising incidence of car accidents caused by driver use of cell phones has led, as of July 2010, to a primary U.S. enforcement ban of text messaging while driving in 26 states as well as the District of Columbia and Guam.
SMS technology, which can accommodate up to 160 characters, is also being used for positive law-enforcement purposes. In the summer of 2010, Marion County, Florida became the latest U.S. region to enable 911 text messaging.