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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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  • 24? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @07:40PM (#20661831) Homepage Journal
    That means 1983 or so.

    I know we were using these on a message board in 1979-1980 at a community college in Michigan prior to then. I might even be able to dig some of it up as I printed off a lot of messages back then and may still have them in an old computer paper box.

    Rather odd anyone would lay a claim to inventing it. I'm certain the concept dates further back to teletypes and such.

    Ah well, anything to start a ruckus on /.


  • by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @07:40PM (#20661835) Journal
    I hate how you type :) in IM or message boards now and they replace the :) with a graphic. I think that ruins it.

    I won't even get into how annoying it is when it changes part of your text that isn't a smiley into a smiley only because it detects the text. It is like how some MMORPGS do ***umption and stuff.
  • November 23, 1987 I was surprised when a total stranger told me I had first use. Best explanation is from this interview. []

    Here's the original posting. [] Paul

  • by RobertM1968 ( 951074 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @08:09PM (#20662121) Homepage Journal

    Is the guy is full of shit in making such a claim. ASCII Art, including the use of emoticons, have been around a lot longer than his first use of it. To claim he was the first and/or created the idea is insane.

    I'm sorry, but I grew up in the 300 baud modem, emoticon existing and using days that predate his claim by over half a decade.

  • Re:24? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @08:11PM (#20662135) Homepage Journal

    As odd as, say, someone keeping printouts of 25+ year old conversations from community college message boards? ;)

    We had some great discussions. We experience flame-wars (gun control as one I recall vividly), angry crapflooders, ALL CAPS, etc. Pretty well everything you see now came about the moment you threw a VT52 terminal and message system at people through which they could chat with anonymity. Heck, we even had cyber stalkers, those who wanted to find out who was using a certain name on the system (you could hit Ctrl-T and see which terminals were which TTY numbers, and the messages included TTY numbers in their headers.)

    Strange it may have seemed, but I certainly wish I had kept more. They stuff is priceless and I have some good memories of those days. Still in touch with some of the geeks I chatted with back then.

  • by qdaku ( 729578 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @08:13PM (#20662161)
    I remember early - mid nineties when I used to draw ascii (newschool, though I dabbled a bit in the oldschool too) for various groups / BBS in the 905/416/519 region (southern ontario and parts of quebec), that there used to be a different system instead of smileys. Smileys were frowned upon. Instead the system revolved around:

    (g) - grin

    (bg) - big grin

    (vbg) - very big grin

    I wonder if it was just a local thing, or if anyone else used to use that too.
  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @08:38PM (#20662379) Homepage Journal
    High school girls have been using Smiley's in passed notes since the advent of paper.

    Just because it's on the computer, it must be new!

    I know I saw them in a military communications in '84 during transatlantic tests. 2 people, many hours away really,really tired tend to get punchy...I wonder this is the person I was communicating with? That would be weird!

  • Prior Art? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by darqchild ( 570580 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @08:43PM (#20662429) Homepage
    I believe there is prior art, found in an 18th century poem. I'd bet that typesetters had been mucking about with this stuff since the invention of movable type. []
  • by Michael McClary ( 1158729 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @09:50PM (#20662919)
    As long as people are claiming things, I claim the invention of the "Bearded Bulletin". This is the hardcopy bulletin-board posting with a fringe of precut tear-offs with contact information (typically a phone number and a word or two to indicate what this particular one is about). This occurred in the winter of about 1969 or 1970. (I could go through some old records and figure it out exactly.) I was in Ann Arbor at the time and needed to move to Lansing and sublet my current apartment. I first went to the University of Michigan's Student Union housing bulletin board to see if anybody was looking, before making my own posting. At that time I noticed that the contact information had been torn off from many of the postings there (rendering the remainder useless B-( ). One poster had taken this into account and defended by writing the number along the bottom of the 3x5 card four times. So I decided to turn a downside into an asset. I made up my posting, wrote the phone number repeatedly along the bottom in "landscape mode", and precut the entries into a fringe so they'd be easy to tear off without destroying the main message or the other tear-offs. It was intended to emulate printed postings with the pad of tear-off coupons, but much more cheaply. And I figured that a dozen or so tear-offs would be more than enough. (If they were all torn away at least one should produce a hit.) I made up maybe 4 of these and posted one on the student union housing board and the others in similar places. And I checked it daily to make sure the bulletin didn't get buried or taken down and lost. Next day there was another like it. Day after there were four. By the end of the week more of the new postings used the technique than didn't. And of course the meme had spread to the OTHER bulletin boards, too. Like the next one over - the "ride to other cities" board. This was just before a major holiday (Thanksgiving, I think, though it might have been Christmas.) I figure the college students hitching rides cross-country or going home on vacation spread it to other campuses across the country (and world) within a matter of weeks. (I know it was pervasive at Michigan State in Lansing by mid-January.) So I figure that, even if nothing else I ever do or did is useful or long-lasting, I've definitely done my bit to improve the technology of human communication with that one invention. B-)
  • by wakingrufus ( 904726 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2007 @11:19PM (#20663425) Homepage
    that article talks about the graphical smiley face. In fact, we are talking about using the colon, dash, and close paren to make a smiley, in which case it is even OLDER!
    It's authorship was credited to the late Harvey Ball (who drew it in the 1960s). "Smiley" is in an ad in the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, 10 March 1953, pg. 20, cols. 4-6. See for yourself. The ad is for the film LILI, with the "delightful" Leslie Caron. The "World Premiere Today" is at the Trans-Lux 52nd on Lexington. The film opened nationwide, and this ad ran in many newspapers.

    You'll laugh :)
    You'll cry :(
    You'll love
  • by KNicolson ( 147698 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @12:38AM (#20663921) Homepage
    And wrote a short article in my blog: []

    So as not to link whore (but karma whore instead...), here goes:

    You may have heard the news that 25 years ago on the 19th of October 1982, there was the first recorded use of western smileys on usenet. However, that got me wondering as to how old horizontal Japanese emoticons were. With a little investigation, I came across this Japanese page on the evolution of smiley marks in Japan. I'll now present a summary translation of this history of the Japanese emoticon.

    First up is a nuclear scientist claiming to have invented (~_~) and others round about the same time as ASCII Net (a Japanese online service) started on the first of May 1985, although he says he wasn't the first, he was just following the patterns of others.

    Next up was someone claiming that when he attended Hokkaido University the first Japanese emoticon he saw was from Master Koala with (^O^) in fj.jokes, inspiring him to invent the following:

    (^.^) - laughing
    (;.;) - crying
    (-.-) - sleeping, shocked
    (_ _) - apologising, lowering one's head
    ; - sweat mark, eg (^.^;)
    * - red-faced, eg *^.^*

    These were coined between May and July of 1988 and used on JUNET, the Japanese University Network.

    Now, we get to a usenet post from January 13 1998, indirectly archived by Google Groups (but with broken encoding). In the message we can see the following marks:

    (^O^) - Master Koala smiling
    (-O-) - Master Koala sleeping
    (*O*) - Master Koala shocked
    (@O@) - Master Koala looking sideways
    (=O=) - Master Koala squinting through narrowed eyes
    (>O<) - Master Koala surprised
    (dOb) - Master Koala neutral

    Now we get a very interesting post, suggesting that the classic (^_^) was invented in Japan, but perhaps not by a Japanese. A Kim Tong Ho claims that in the first half of 1986 he signed posts to ASCII Net with the above-mentioned emoticon, with one example from 20th of June 1986. However, he doesn't have confidence to claim to be the very first person to come up with a Japanese emoticon that doesn't require head-tilting to read. Around the same time a person with the handle 'binbou' (the nuclear scientist mentioned above) used (~_~), but as to who was first, it is rather difficult to say.

    So, there we have it; the Japanese emoticon is at least 21 years and a few months old, perhaps even 22 and a bit years old.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.