Happy birthday: The emoticon turns 30 years old today

By on September 19, 2012, 12:00 PM

The sideways “smiley face”, often referred to as the first emoticon, turns thirty years old today. Scott E. Fahlman came up with the idea during a bulletin board post on September 19, 1982 as a way to mark a thread as something that shouldn’t be taken seriously. His use of the character sequence is the first recorded use, although verifying it after so many years took a lot of detective work.

Text-based communication lacked the body language or tone-of-voice cues given during traditional face-to-face or telephone calls which made it difficult to determine if someone was being sarcastic in a post or reply or if they were truly serious in their remarks. Fahlman’s smiley face proposal quickly caught on with board users at Carnegie Mellon University and soon spread to several other universities and research labs via primitive computer networks.

Unfortunately by the time that Fahlman realized the trend was catching on in a big way, he wasn’t able to retrieve the original board post and believed it was lost forever. But in 2001, Microsoft employee Mike Jones sponsored an “archeological dig” through old backup tapes in an effort to locate the original thread. After six months of digging, Jones and his team located the correct backup tapes, found the necessary hardware to read the media, decoded the format and ultimately located the original thread dated September 19, 1982.

The original thread and some other posts using the emoticon were reproduced and are now online for all to enjoy.




User Comments: 12

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1 person liked this | Geforcepat Geforcepat said:

:-)

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Hard to believe I was only 10 when emoticon was born. Where has all the time since gone?

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Thanks for making me feel old. AGAIN...

tehbanz tehbanz said:

Hard to believe I was only 10 when emoticon was born. Where has all the time since gone?

I wasn't even a twinkle at that point, I find it hard to believe something so commonly used today (computer-wise) was founded before I was born! (88)

H3llion H3llion, TechSpot Paladin, said:

8) Awesomesauce

p51d007 said:

You kids LOL....

I was in my 20's when this came along. And our idea of a smiley was a bright yellow

ROUND sticker.

Guest said:

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'/-.........--.......:...........-/'

'/..........-NN-.....oMs............/'

+.........../MM/.....hMm.............+

:-...........:MM-.....sMh.............-:

+.............//......-o-..............+

+......................................+

+......................................+

+....+o..........................s/....+

:-....d/......................../h....-:

+....-do.....................-sd-....+

'/....-ymo-................-oms...../'

'/-....:ymho:.........-:ohms-....-/'

-:....../shmmdhhhhdmmhs/......:-

-:-........:://:-........-:-

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dennis777 dennis777 said:

(?_?) wow older than me

Guest said:

The first recorded use of emoticons was 1881 by the way.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

The first recorded use of emoticons was 1881 by the way.

Right, you know for a fact it was not ever used prior to 1881.

1 person liked this | Camikazi said:

The first recorded use of emoticons was 1881 by the way.

Right, you know for a fact it was not ever used prior to 1881.

There is a reason the word "recorded" was in that comment

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