says the man who sent the first message on his cell phone
SERVICE – The first text message celebrates its 30th anniversary on December 3, 2022. It was sent from London by a 22-year-old British engineer.
The thirty-year-old joins the family. This Saturday, December 3, 2022, SMS (Short Message Service) is 30 years old. Since then, the use of messaging has evolved, notably in 2002 with the introduction of MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) allows sending photos and videos.
Ten years ago, Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old English engineer and software designer at Sema Group, sent the first SMS in history. On December 3, 1992, it was sent to Richard Jarvis, director of the British telephone operator Vodafone. The company was then a customer of Sema Groupe, the source of the technology needed to send the first SMS.
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Neil Papworth is still working in IT and currently lives in Montreal, Canada.
LE FIGARO. – The first SMS was sent 30 years ago. How are you feeling today?
Neil PAPWORTH. – On the one hand, I am proud to have sent this first message and to be part of the story. I am proud to be the first. On the other hand, if it wasn’t me, it would be someone else. You know, I just sent the first text, I didn’t make it up. I don’t think I’ve changed anything about the process. But I’m still happy and proud to have done it.
You wrote “Merry Christmas” (“Merry Christmas)”. Why?
I don’t remember if it was my choice or someone asked me to post it. In fact, this SMS was intended for Richard Jarvis, the director of Vodafone, the phone operator we work with. On 3 December 1992, there was a Christmas party at Vodafone, where Richard Jarvis was at the time. It was in a hotel in Newbury [à l’ouest de Londres, NDLR]. I believe there were many Vodafone employees in this party. Sending the text was probably part of the show for them.
Send “Merry ChristmasPretty fitting for someone at a Christmas party, right?
“At that time, our system allowed messages to be received only by phone. Not to send. »
How did the shipment go?
This was done from a large computer connected to the telephone network. SMS was, of course, sent to a cordless phone, but at the time our system only allowed messages to be received on the phone. Not to send. So we had no choice but to connect our computers to the telephone network.
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The recipient of the message was across town, I had no direct way of knowing it was working. A colleague of mine was on the phone with someone who was with Richard Jarvis in this hotel. He said when to send the message. When I pressed the button, my palms were sweaty, I was nervous, hoping that everything would work. I really wanted to show Vodafone management that our system works. Then my colleague gave me a signal to let me know that everything was working.
How did you feel at that time?
I was proud, but above all, I was relieved. He was relieved that it worked. I was happy. Then I moved on to something else for the rest of the day. I don’t remember what I did that day after the message was sent. I still remember the drive home. I was wondering what to eat that night.
“Today was a big milestone in my life, but back then it was just a normal day at work. »
It wasn’t a big deal back then. It wasn’t an event where you were like,damn itit was mewhen someone first walked on the moon [Neil Armstrong en 1969, NDLR]. Today was a milestone in my life, but at the time it was just a normal day at work. Indeed.
Why were you selected to send this message?
We have tested software that technically enables sending SMS from our offices. I remember one day someone asked if there was a volunteer to work with Vodafone and install this system. I said to myself”yes, that looks greatthat’s why I volunteered. I did a lot of tests for Vodafone.
“No one knew what would happen in a few years.”
There was no selection process for who would send the first text message. I believe up to 29 people worked on this project at the same time. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but someone must have asked.”Who is available?and I had to be. Perhaps my participation in the tests also played a role. Sitting in front of a keyboard and texting is something we’ve all been doing for a while, you know. No one knew what would happen after a few years.
Are you surprised by the evolution of SMS?
Yes, and I still do. Although SMS is liked, it is popular and widely used Messenger [la messagerie de Facebook, NDLR] or iMessage [utilisée sur les téléphones Apple, NDLR] and all these types of services are available.
There are probably reasons for this. Some people don’t have Facebook or anything, but mostly people have their preferences, their habits. That’s why I’m surprised it’s still as popular as it is today. But I’m glad it’s still relevant and people are using it. Otherwise we wouldn’t be having a discussion here, would we? (laughs).
Do you think SMS is doomed to disappear?
I imagine that eventually it will happen one day… But this question already arose when SMS was 20 years old. [en 2012, NDLR] and ten years later it still is. I don’t think that will happen in the short term because everyone has a phone in their pocket and it’s still handy for small things.
There’s no need for music or video when you want to tell someone you’re going to be late for the bar or that you need to buy cucumbers from the supermarket. (laughs). A few words of text are enough. So I think the messaging will continue for a while.
The last word?
Merry Christmas! (laughs)