20 year anniversary of the SMS

SwiftSMS - send SMS from your computer

Today is a special day in the Mobile tech world: Its the 20th anniversary of the SMS.

That 160 character quick message that was meant to simply notify you of a new voicemail had become a multi billion industry world wide.

Despite all the “SMS is dead” doom and gloom, SMS is still being used by billions of people and systems around the globe. According to various reports that are over  eight trillion messages sent every year.  This is especially true in Africa where there are places that don’t have 3G cell networks and so the standard SMS is still king.

In South Africa, where we invented the Please Call Me, we love our SMS which are being used for mass communication although the number of person-to-person SMS are declining in favour of various instant messaging applications such as WhatsApp and BBM.

Some cool SMS facts:

  • Did you know that the 160 Character limit comes from the radio pager days where the standard was defined at 160 characters as there were two lines of 80 characters each on the display ?
  • Did you know that virtually every single mobile phone i the world has access to the SMS ?
  • Did you know that SMS is almost 100% pure profit for the networks ?
  • Did you know that people ins the Philippines send 27 text per day vs. people in England who send 50 text per week ?
  • Did you know that  sending a text and braking your card from 70mph added 70 feet to stopping distance. Being legally drunk only added four.

SMS has taught us that the English language can be abbreviated into TXT speak and the LOL soon started becoming so common that it has transcended from the small SMS screen to other messaging system such as Twitter and even emails (yuk!). There are even websites set up so you can decipher what someone wrote to you. For example: did you know that BITHIWT stands for A bird In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush ?

If you ever watched any 12 years old, you will see just how fast they can SMS especially with the new wave of Smartphones that have keyboards built specifically to speed up typing. There are even world records:

For me, SMS holds a soft spot. I set up my first mobile tech company called SwiftSMS which was one of the first South African bulk SMS companies back in 2000. We created a simple way for anyone to send bulk SMS from a single place without learning anything about FTP or SMPP. We created an Excel Plug-in that you can press a button within Excel, paste your recipients numbers, type your message and the SMS is sent.

Glad to say that the company survived the dot com crash and is still running today.

So happy birthday SMS and long may you continue !

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