Texting Use Reaches 4 Billion People After 20 Years of SMS Introduction

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By Vittorio Hernandez | December 3, 2012 10:03 AM EST

Twenty years ago, 22-year-old British engineer Neil Papworth sent the message "Merry Christmas" to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone from his office computer. It was the world's first text message and since then the number of people who use the short messaging service on their cell phones had grown to 4 billion.

Mr Papworth said he never thought that texting would even overtake the traditional phone voice call as the most common method to keep in touch.

"Back then I had no idea - I was just doing a day's testing. It wasn't until the 10th anniversary that I realised and thought, 'Wow, that was a big thing,'" SkyNews quoted Mr Papworth.

While use of SMS has skyrocketed and reached 8 trillion test messages sent a year, it appears texting has reached its peak after two decades and its usage is starting to decline.

In the UK where the first text message was sent on Dec 3, 1992, media regulator Ofcom reported that SMS use declined the past two quarters by over one billion SMS. From a peak of 39.7 billion at the end of 2011, SMS sent has gone down to 38.5 billion.

It is the first recorded drop in texting use that has been replicated in the U.S., which Ofcom Director of Research James Thickett attributed to the availability of other instant messaging services such as Twitter and Facebook and Web-based communications like WhatsApp, Blackberry Messenger, iMessenger, Google Talk and MSN Messenger, many of which are free on smartphones and tablets.

The bulk of text messages sent in the UK were made by young people in the age bracket 12 to 15 years old who average 193 SMS sent weekly or four times higher the UK average.

Another survey by Acison, a mobile communication firm, said 92 per cent of smartphone users prefer texting to talking over the phone and people in the age group 18 to 25 sent the highest number of text messages at an average of 133 per week.

Texting or talking on the mobile phone has been blamed for a rising number of vehicular accidents, prompting many countries to ban the use of cell phones while driving.

Besides motorists, use of SMS has also caused trouble for some people such as number one golfer Tiger Woods whose text messages to a girlfriend in 2009 was made public which cost him millions of sponsorship royalties and a divorce from wife Elin Nordegren, which cost him $750 million

To avert more disaster when texting, particularly when drunk (even if not driving), a young woman posted a video on YouTube providing tips of drunk texting. The video, shown below, has more than 300,000 hits so far.

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