Texting was never actually designed for consumer market

It’s always interesting to look back on the intended use of technological innovation and compare the current iterations with the presumed uses and benefits when the innovation was first instituted. It reminds me of the story I was told re the development of the original telephone which was intended solely as a serious business aid. So the story goes, initially uptake was slow and new subscriptions were stalling and it wasn’t until some businessmen began to install phones at home and their wives began to use the “business device” for social purposes that sales finally took off. In the end it was the desire to be connected socially rather than a utilitarian need that made the difference.

For a technology that has become so all-pervasive that texting has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary, SMS (short message service) was not designed as a mass market consumer communications service at all.

“It was designed to use some spectrum and provide an internal messaging service for engineers and maybe become the beginnings of a Teletext-type service,” explains Mike Short, chief technology officer for Telefónica O2 Europe. “In the early 1990s we had Teletext and Ceefax on the TV, and in some countries people said ‘maybe we could do this on a mobile phone one day’. But in the early 1990s the screens were so tiny that people could not envisage it, we had no connectivity to the internet so people experimented a little bit.”

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