Happy twentieth birthday, SMS!

SMS – or what’s now commonly referred to as ‘texting’ – is twenty years old today. Begun December 3, 1992  in London, SMS grew from one 160-character message every couple months to an astounding seven trillion texts per year. As we send tweets from iPhones and iPads connected across the globe, its time to look back at the grandfather of iMessage – and it all began over a pizza.

The whole idea of SMS was created in 1984 when three engineers at a Danish pizzeria discussed how great it would be to send text messages over the GSM network. Less than a decade later, UK’s Vodafone went to work on SMS software. The first message sent: “Merry Christmas” from a Sema Group engineer to Vodafone Director Richard Jarvis. The message travelled the huge distance of 30 miles…

Jarvis received the first SMS message on a dinosaur of a cellphone, the Orbitel 901, described as weighing the same as 17 iPhone 5 units.

SMS did not initially take off like wildfire.

While today, we send texts on topics large and small, at first texts were used by carrier’s to let their subscribers know about new incoming voicemails. It took the introduction of prepaid cell service along with T9  predictive text input to really throw gas on the flame. By 2000, 17 billion text messages were flying back and forth.

If SMS was the father of today’s texting, iMessage is the snarky grandson, combining text, images and other data into one app. Apple’s iMessage, the icon so familiar that Apple trademarked the image, has been a real headache for carriers.

After seeing subscribers largely move from voice calls to text messaging, cell providers are now nervously watching the profit-rich texting move to Voice-over-IP Apple’s own iMessage conduit.

So, the next time you iMessage someone with pics of your Christmas celebration, remember how it all began. Maybe order a pizza in SMS’ memory.

How do you think texting will change with the advent of iMessaging?

Carriers are quickly moving to data plans for their profits – what other changes do you expect?