Photo: Holger Eilhard
YOU PROBABLY take emoticons for granted. I do. Colon-parenthesis is a smile. Semi-colon-parenthesis is a wink. Colon-capital-P is a tongue sticking out. For many of you these have probably been a part of your vocabulary since you remember. They just are. But they haven’t always been. Here’s a history lesson for you.
- Your brain reacts to emoticons as if they were real faces, according to a recent study in the scientific journal Social Neuroscience.
- The first email smiley face was sent at 11:44 am on September 19, 1982.
- The message was not originally saved (they were able to retrieve a copy 20 years after the fact).
- Colon-dash-parenthesis was invented by Scott Fahlman, a research professor at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science.
- The smiley face was created to mark a lighter or sarcastic tone in the simple text messages and avoid misunderstandings and fights.
- The first idea to mark messages as “not serious” was to use an asterisk in the subject line. Scott thought he could do better than that.
- It started being used just within the school Scott worked in, then spread to other schools but was limited to how many were joined — at that point, around 10 — over the ARPANET (the Internet in those days).
- As more schools joined the network they would take on the use of the smiley face, expanding its reach and use.
- The inventor of the text smiley face doesn’t like emojis, the graphic illustration of the character-based emoticons. He thinks they’re ugly.
- Some people challenge the validity that Scott invented the first emoticon; a transcript from 1862 of an Abraham Lincoln speech apparently contains a winkey smiley face.
- It’s theorized that this winkey smiley face in Abraham Lincoln’s speech is just a typo.
- Scott doesn’t claim to be the inventor of emoticons; he just invented colon-dash-parenthesis.
Below is an entertaining interview with Scott Fahlman on CBC’s “Q”: