Happy birthday SMS!

It’s the 20th anniversary of the text message! Today’s college students won’t remember a world without SMS, but those of us who are older can probably recall when they discovered this new feature. Do you remember your first text? Tell us in the comments below!

We do a lot more on our phones than we did 20 years ago. When we surveyed 17,000 smartphone users earlier this year with Mobile Nations and Pocket-Lint, we found people email, text, and browse the internet on their phones more than they make calls – communication on smartphones is largely through typing not speaking. We also found people rate being able to type easily as being as important as call quality and more important than price, camera, appearance or brand.

Here’s SwiftKey CEO and co-founder Jon Reynolds on why the party’s not over for the SMS:

“Far from this 20th anniversary marking the death of the text message, people are actually communicating using their thumbs more than ever.

“An Ofcom report in 2012 showed that 58% of people communicate by texts on a daily basis compared to just 47% making phone calls, with texts overtaking for the first time. What’s more, modern so-called threats to SMS are really text messages over wifi and in another format – WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook all borrow from the original technology.

“Although the core technology of SMS has barely changed in 20 years, helping people accurately and quickly get their thoughts down remains the challenge, and where the recent innovations have been. The alphanumeric keyboards of the 90s have been vastly improved upon with smartphones.

“At SwiftKey we use artificial intelligence to learn how the user writes to improve auto-correction and give accurate next word predictions. In the next 20 years our text messages are likely to be able to write themselves based on what the phone knows about the user.

“The simplicity of text based communication and generous data plans mean that SMS remains in real terms as popular as ever.”

Do you remember the first SMS you ever sent? How old were you and what might it have said?

PS The SwiftKey Flow beta is coming very soon, I promise. We’re really excited about it.

Best wishes,


  • Ruth Barnett

    Back in the olden days (when I was a teenager), we had a “family mobile” which we all shared. That meant any texts you did send or receive could be read by snooping relatives and it took about five minutes to draft something!

  • Tim

    Probably something like:

    “Testing….does this work” follow by a “sweet!”

  • DaViDTsH


  • Ruth E

    I didn’t even have a pager back in 92. (got one of those in 95) I think we had a car phone, but I wouldn’t have thought to text on it! :-) I don’t think I used texting until the late nighties when I got my own mobile. (a prepaid/pay by the minute thing.) Happy Birthday SMS!! :-) I wouldn’t know WHAT to do without my SMS NOW!! :-) i do remember using “coded messages” on the pager – that only sent phone #’s – to give and receive messages. none of which I can remember, but it involved a code and sometimes flipping the pager upside. LOL Oh, such a long time ago! :-)

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