Emoticon inventor hates 'smileys'
Wed, 12 Sep 2012 11:44a.m.
By 3 News online staff
The computer scientist who first came up with the idea of emoticons – those little faces made up of punctuation symbols, like :-) – says he hates what they've become.
On the morning of September 19, 1982, Prof Scott Fahlman posted a message on a university electronic bulletin board that suggested using :-) to denote when a person was joking.
"I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-) Read it sideways," he wrote, adding: "Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use :-( ."
In an interview to mark the 30th anniversary of the message, Prof Fahlman spoke to UK paper The Independent, and told them he didn't expect to be talking about it three decades later.
"This was a little bit of silliness that I tossed into a discussion about physics," he says. "It was 10 minutes of my life. I expected my note might amuse a few of my friends, and that would be the end of it."
Within months, people with access to the early internet all around the world were using them.
Nowadays, software like Microsoft Word, text message apps and programs like Windows Live Messenger automatically create "smileys" when you type in character combinations like :-) and :-(. Some have dozens of variations to choose from. Prof Fahlman is no fan, however.
"I think they are ugly, and they ruin the challenge of trying to come up with a clever way to express emotions using standard keyboard characters," he says.
"But perhaps that's just because I invented the other kind."
Or did he? The Independent claims a transcript of a speech from US president Abraham Lincoln, printed in the New York Times in 1862, contains a winking emoticon - ;-).
It was probably just a typo, however.
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12/09/2012 1:54:34 p.m.
Or maybe Abe was presenting a list of items in parenthesis separated by semi-colons, and the last element in the list was a null item. I prefer my explanation. >`)))><(
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