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The Smiley Face Turns 25 :-) 250

klubar writes "Another milestone of online communications has been reached. The smiley turns 25, according to Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman who says he was the first to use three keystrokes. 'Language experts say the smiley face and other emotional icons, known as emoticons, have given people a concise way in e-mail and other electronic messages of expressing sentiments that otherwise would be difficult to detect. Fahlman posted the emoticon in a message to an online electronic bulletin board at 11:44 a.m. on Sept. 19, 1982, during a discussion about the limits of online humor and how to denote comments meant to be taken lightly.'"
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The Smiley Face Turns 25 :-)

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  • by AdamTrace ( 255409 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @08:38PM (#20662369) []


    Original Bboard Thread in which :-) was proposed

    Here is the original message posted by Scott Fahlman on 19 September, 1982:

    19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-)

    From: Scott E Fahlman

    I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers: :-)

    Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark

    things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use :-(

    The entire thread is reproduced below. We didn't have formal newsgroup threads in those days, but these are all the messages that mention the need for a joke marker or that use the :-) symbol.

    This was retrieved from the spice vax oct-82 backup tape by Jeff Baird on September 10, 2002. The period covered is 16 September 1982 through 21 October 1982.

    Credits: Here is the account by Mike Jones describing how this ancient post was retrieved. It's an impressive piece of digital archeology, with many contributors. I am grateful to Mike, to Jeff Baird, and to all the others who played a role in this effort. It is great that we can view this bit of Internet history once again.

    Many people were involved in this computing archaeology success story. I (Mike Jones) kicked off the effort in February 2002 by looking through some old bboard program (Bags) sources, figuring out the filename that the post would likely be found under (/usr/cmu/lib/bb/, and asking Howard Wactlar, the former CMU SCS facilities director, whether the file could still be restored. Scott Fahlman provided data narrowing the probable span of time during which the post was made. Howard and Bob Cosgrove, the current director, determined that backup tapes from that period (1981-1983) still existed and asked Jeff Baird of the facilities staff to try to find and restore the post. Dave Livingston of facilities located a working 9- track tape drive and a machine to use it on. Kirk Berthold and Michael Riley in CS operations managed retrieving tapes from off-site archival storage. Grad student Dan Pelleg's FreeBSD machine was used to read the 4.1BSD dump format tapes using a compatibility mode in the restore program. (Later in the effort a NetBSD machine was used to do the same thing.) Dale Moore looked for the post on Tops-20 backup tapes from CMU-20C. But by all accounts, Jeff Baird should get most of the credit for doing the hard work of locating and retrieving the data. He kept asking for more tapes, reading those that could still be read, narrowing the date range, and sticking with it until the post was found. Thanks all for your efforts to restore this part of computing history, and especially, thanks Jeff!

    Note: There apparently were a few posts prior to 16 September (not on the tape that was retrieved) that posed various physics questions about what would happen to various objects in an elevator if you cut the cable. Given the quality of the elevators in Wean Hall (then and now), this was more than idle speculation.

    Apparently someone had posed the problem of what would happen to a helium balloon in free-fall, someone else had asked about pigeons flying around in the falling elevator, and someone had then asked what would happen if the birds were breathing the helium...

    16-Sep-82 11:51 James Wright at CMU-780D Related question

    Of equal interest is how the birds cheeping will

    sound after they have inhaled the Helium.


    16-Sep-82 12:09 Neil Swartz at CMU-750R Pigeon type question

    This question does not involve pigeons, but is similar:

    There is a lit candle in an elevator mounted on a bracket attached to

    the middle of one wall (say, 2" from the wall). A drop of mercury

    is on the floor. The cable snaps and the elevator falls.

    What happens to the candle and the mercury?
  • For Your Reference (Score:3, Informative)

    by InvisibleSoul ( 882722 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @08:46PM (#20662455)
    Here is the complete list of canonical smilies: []
  • Re:Prior Art? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anne Honime ( 828246 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @09:35PM (#20662841)
    I thought so at first too, but after a second reading, the punctuation has no sense in the context, and wouldn't have been used in a XVIIIth century book professionnaly typesetted. I side with the pun interpretation on this one. While punctuation has been more laxed in earlier centuries, proper usage was setteled and to break the line a coma or a semicolumn would have been used. ':' means 'therefore' in french (and probably in english too), it's never used as a pause or silence.

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray