Want to Feel Old? the Emoticon Is 40 Years Old :-)


Scott E. Fahlman's emoticons could be seen as the forerunners of today's emojis.

Scott E. Fahlman’s emoticons could be seen as the forerunners of today’s emojis.
picture: Stephen Lamm (Getty Images)

Emotion is something that is incredibly difficult to convey in a digital format. Aside from ending your texts with “lol” to appear less threatening or ending a tweet with “/s” to indicate sarcasm, this is your only real choice to get what you want The meaning of your message is the emoticon. Today we know them how emojibut 40 years agothe first emoticon was born with just a few keystrokes.

The possibilities were endless like that early internet stepped into his new role as digital terra incognita. With a new frontier for humanity to explore and colonize, one of the biggest unknowns was how language would evolve in this new space. Given the inability to express emotions with visual cues, meaning and humanity could be too easily lost in the machinations of digital communication. To communicate humor (and lack thereof) more efficiently, Professor Scott E. Fahlman of Carnegie Mellon University proposed a pictorial hierarchy to describe attempts at jokes on the university’s online bulletin board (dubbed “Bboard”). In his post on Sep 19, 1982 at 11:44 amhe said:

I suggest the following string for joke markers:

🙂

Read it sideways. In fact, given current trends, it’s probably more economical to flag things that are NOT jokes. Use to do this

🙁

Since this message was posted to Carnegie Mellon’s board 40 years ago, We covered a ton of ground. It took a while for “colon-bracket” emoticons to catch on as the internet expanded from universities and the military into people’s homes in the ’90s. People with a home computer and an internet connection could post the original emoticons as well as their variants like 😉 as a winking face and >:-( as an angry face.

Typography evolved further than Wing things developed in 1990 that allowed users to access symbols from their keyboard. Pictographic representations from smileys to pointing fingers to airplanes and arrows were now available at the touch of a button. Kaomojiswere also created as a Japanese counterpart to Fahlman’s emoticons, except that the readers were not coerced to turn your head. Kaomoji users can also choose from a variety of different kaomojis to represent the same emotion, such as: joy and confusion. Kaomojis were first developed sometime in the 1980s, but have seen a resurgence with meme culture over the past decade.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the original emoticon, it seems these classic emoticons are dated as emojis come first. It wasn’t a bad run, and to be fair, who knows if we could express ourselves fully via text withoutut Fahlman is another pioneer way to communicate.



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