writes "CNN reports: "Twenty-five years ago, (Sept 19, 1982) Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman says, he was the first to use three keystrokes — a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis — as a horizontal "smiley face" in a computer message."
Emoticons are now part of daily life for anyone who uses a computer or other text-capable communication device. Just about everyone in the world has at least seen an emoticon. It may perhaps be the most important innovation ever in electronic communications. I know the smiley has saved me many times from horrible email misunderstandings. How many others has it saved? :-)
Unfortunately, in recent years others have tried to claim rights to emoticons, most notably the evil folks at Despair.com. In a controversial move, they trademarked the frowny emoticon and banned its use from email without a license. In their defense, the license fee is quite affordable. :-( (Yes, this one is licensed.)"Link to Original Source