Texting SMS pioneer Matti Makkonen 20 years on

Leo Kelion question I know you're not keen on interviews but given it's the SMS's 20th anniversary would you at least consider talking to me by text? Matti Makkonen: words Ok, we can do it :) You have chosen an interesting method.

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In a world first, on 3 December 1992, an engineer sent the message "Merry Christmas" from a PC to a mobile device using Vodafone's UK network.

But the origins of the idea date back further to Matti Makkonen. Over a pizza at a telecoms conference in 1984, the former Finnish civil servant put forward the idea of a mobile phone messaging service. This was to become the SMS (short message service) standard.

Dubbed the "father of SMS"- a title he dislikes because of the work others did to develop the technology - Matti Makkonen rarely gives interviews. However, he made an exception for the BBC's tech team with an interview via SMS.

  • Tues 15:24

    It’s been estimated 8 trillion text messages were sent last year. 20yrs ago how popular did you think sms would get and what did you think it would be used for?

  • Tues 15:40

    20yrs ago I didn’t see sms as separate issue – it was just a feature in the revolutionary mobile communications system. Very useful for quick business needs.

  • Tues 15:45

    You never got any money for it as you didn’t patent the idea. Is that a regret – or are you glad how things worked out?.

  • Tues 15:58

    I don't think I made a patentable innovation, but was one of the early persons to understand the need and the concept. I’m glad the work was done as part of GSM.

  • Tues 18:03

    You've been described as the “reluctant father of SMS” and it took a newspaper investigation to identify you. Why were you so quiet about your achievement?

  • Weds 06:05

    I did not consider sms as personal achievement but as result of joint effort to collect ideas and write the specifications of the services based on them.

  • Weds 12:22

    Cn u txtspk?

  • Weds 12:26

    No! My passion is to write correct language (Finnish), using all 160 characters.

  • Weds 12:28

    What do you think of people who do? Do you hate it?

  • Weds 12:33

    No, I don’t hate them. Actually sms can also be seen as a way for language to develop. More symbols, less characters.

  • Weds 14:26

    What do you make of sexting? A lot of high profile figures have come to regret some of their more explicit messages!?!

  • Weds 15:18

    In my mind private messages of high profile persons should be kept out of public discussion. Privacy belongs to telecommunication as much as to private letters.

  • Weds 17:08

    Do you suffer from text spam? If so what kind?

  • Weds 17:16

    Not at all. Finnish legislation is quite protective. Marketing messages are allowed only if you really allow them. Spam calls are more often problem.

  • Weds 18:47

    Do you prefer typing in a keypad or touchscreen? And how fast are you?

  • Weds 20:11

    I love touchscreen. Slow enough to think and sometimes even edit what I write.

  • Weds 20:13

    Will sms survive another 20 years – or will Facebook, Skype and other instant messaging chat systems take over?

  • Weds 20:30

    20 years is long time… I believe that reliable convenient to use text messaging will stay forever. Is not necessary what we call sms. No more pay per message.

  • Thurs 10:38

    It was 8 years between your idea of SMS and the first text being sent. Were you surprised it took so long?

  • Thurs 14:26

    No. Actually I felt myself as a customer, who had noticed a need. I was happy to see that the development was going on in a gsm working team. The real launch of the service, as I see it, was when Nokia introduced the first phone that enabled easy writing of messages (Nokia 2010 in 1994).

  • Thurs 14:41

    Do you have any other big idea for the future!?!

  • Thurs 15:06

    Not my idea but integration of mobile content display to my eyeglasses would be nice. Maybe someone is working with it?

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