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Last updated at 16:57 GMT, Monday, 03 December 2012

Texting turns 20


3 December 2012

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. Now, millions of texts are sent every day on both traditional phones and smartphones.


Grant Ferret

Text message received

Txt msgs r 20 yrs old tdy


Click to hear the report


When Neil Papworth sent the first text message from his computer to a colleague's mobile phone on the 3rd of December 20 years ago, he didn't wait for a response. In those days it wasn't possible to send a message from a phone.

But the spread of mobile technology, combined with the cheapness and brevity of texts, ensured that they became a global phenomenon, changing language in the process.

In the past year though, in a number of countries including the United States and Britain, the volume of text messages has fallen slightly for the first time. The SMS has been hit by the free messaging alternatives available on smartphones.


Click here to hear the vocabulary



growth over a larger area


using only a few words or lasting a short time; shortness

a global phenomenon

something that happens everywhere in the world


(here) the number or amount of something


system or process of sending messages


mobile phones that offer extra functions such as email, internet access and data storage

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