The joy of txts – everything you ever needed to know about SMS messages

Let's talk about text – as the world’s first text message is set to sell for £170,000 at auction.

It reads "Merry Christmas" and was sent to Vodafone’s director Richard Jarvis in December 1992 after he helped develop the short message service (SMS).

Now a virtual replica is going under the hammer via cryptocurrency.

Jarvis might have been sent the first text message, but he couldn’t reply. Engineer Neil Papworth typed it on a computer and sent it, but mobile phones didn’t have the ability to input text.

Text messages originally had a 160-character limit so early adopters invented "txt spk", such as LOL (laughing out loud) and emoticons – symbols made from keyboard characters to show emotions. These would later ­inspire the creation of the first emojis.

Research has found 60% of people reply to a text within two minutes. The same percentage say too many messages is the top reason to unsubscribe from a business.

In the UK, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging ­service with 84% of us using it, ­followed by Facebook Messenger. In the States, only 33% of people use WhatsApp.

And use of WhatsApp has seen the number of SMS and MMS messages sent in the UK fall to 48.68billion in 2020, from a peak of 150.83bn in 2012.

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The famous "beep-beep-beep, beeeeep-beeeeep, beep-beep-beep" Nokia text tone is actually Morse code for SMS.

In 2019, more than 11million drivers in the UK admitted they had texted while driving at some point.

Text addiction was first ­officially recognised by ­psychiatrists in 2008. The Priory Clinic reported that some phone users spent up to seven hours a day texting.

In 2007, Elliot Nicholls broke the record for fastest SMS typed blindfolded, managing: "The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ­ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human," in 45.09 seconds.

In 2001 Joseph Estrada, then-president of the Philippines, was ousted from office by more than a million protesters organised and coordinated via text.

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And in 2003 a court in Malaysia ruled that husbands could divorce their wives via text. The government quickly tightened laws to ban the use of ­electronic messages in divorces.

A British doctor performed a life-saving amputation by text in 2008. Surgeon David Nott, who was volunteering in the Democratic Republic of Congo, had never performed the op but received text message instructions from a colleague to remove an infected left arm.

It emerged earlier this year that ­former prime minister David Cameron ­bombarded senior Government ­figures with 62 texts ­during his money-lobbying spree for fallen firm Greensill Capital. They included messages to Mich-ael Gove and others, signed: "Love DC."

TV’s Vernon Kay was also ­famously embroiled in a scandal in 2010 when he exchanged explicit text messages with model Rhian Sugden.

And Aussie cricketer Shane Warne was caught out when he sent his wife a text saying: "Hey beautiful, I’m just talking to my kids, the back door’s open."

Wife Simone was 10,000 miles away and responded: "Loser, you sent the message to the wrong person."

They reunited after divorcing in 2005 but later split again.

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