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Old 11-21-2017, 05:44 AM
Jacquernagy Jacquernagy is online now
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Why did the concept of text messaging not catch on earlier?

I've wondered about this for some time now. I can remember when cell phones - actually, at first, they were mostly car phones - were strictly for talking, with no text feature whatsoever. Concurrently, at this same time - the early 90s, when I would have been six or seven - I can also remember beepers. My parents' friend who was a heart surgeon had one with him at all times. The beepers could display a phone number, and some of them could display text characters as well. But they were two totally separate devices, phone and pager.

Why is it that nobody was making, if not cellular phones capable of displaying text, then at least some kind of dedicated texting devices?

We all remember how much fun it was passing notes in school. There's no way in hell that, just to give one hypothetical example, a dedicated texting device - a digital note-passer, if you will - would not have flown off the shelves, were it marketed to well-off teenagers the way so many other products were.

Now that email and text messaging have largely superceded voice conversation as the preferred form of communication, its numerous advantages are obvious. (Not to say that there aren't also disadvantages, but bear with me.) It allows people to communicate at a more leisurely pace, for a casual chat....or, indeed, a faster pace, in situations where repeated voice conversations would be too disruptive. It allows you to take a minute to look up the answer to something, rather than being put on the spot and not knowing. And, in the case of leaving a message for someone to be read later, as on an answering machine - it allows the message to be composed more coherently and succinctly, and it's also faster for the recipient to read it than to listen to a lengthy voice message.

Why did people not think of this in the 80s or 90s, and develop and market dedicated texting devices? Why did it take the development of smartphones for texting to become so prevalent, when an old-school LCD screen and little rubber keys could have accomplished the same thing?

Or.....as may indeed be the case....WERE there such devices, and simply have been lost to the mists of time?
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Old 11-21-2017, 05:52 AM
cochrane cochrane is online now
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There was texting before smartphones. I've had several phones in the early 2000s that were capable of sending texts. I believe it really didn't take off until phones had keyboards. Before that, using the number buttons to enter text was slow and clumsy, considering you often had to hit a key three or four times to enter a desired letter.
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Old 11-21-2017, 05:54 AM
Lord Feldon Lord Feldon is offline
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There were two-way alphanumeric pagers by the late 90s. My dad had one for work at one point. It had, in fact, an old-school LCD screen and little rubber keys. It could also send email, so he could use it to contact people who didn't have a pager.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 11-21-2017 at 05:56 AM.
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Old 11-21-2017, 05:57 AM
guizot guizot is offline
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I remember trying to get people to send me text messages--instead of emails--in the 90s, but to little avail.

Also, Europeans were texting a lot before smart phones. It was in the States that it took so long to catch on.
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Old 11-21-2017, 06:09 AM
Jack Batty Jack Batty is offline
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I was able to text with my first cell phone back in 2001-ish, but it was a flip phone; texting was like a friggin' IQ test - press this button twice for "n" but don't press it again for the "o" until it clears and then punctuation is on this other menu so you have press the pound key (remember those, ya know, before hash-tags?) four times to find a button that you have to press three times to use a quote mark.

I didn't start texting with any regularity until I got a smart phone.
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Old 11-21-2017, 06:20 AM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is offline
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I thought texting was pretty common in the late 90's. The hassle of writing with the number pad is the whole reason 4 txt speak .
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Old 11-21-2017, 06:39 AM
Jacquernagy Jacquernagy is online now
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Oh, I remember the combined number-letter texting all too well. It sucked. And so, it begs the question of why a dedicated texting device - a super-pager, if you will, with a paragraph-sized LCD screen and a full alphabetic keyboard - did not ever exist. I don't mean a phone that could text, I mean a standalone texting apparatus.

In fact, it seems like something of the sort should have existed BEFORE the actual cell phones. After all, letters and telegraphs came before the telephone. Text communication in a portable, electronic form would seem to be the logical missing link between land line phones and cellular phones....right? Or is my perspective totally skewed?
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Old 11-21-2017, 07:26 AM
Sparky812 Sparky812 is offline
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Actually we did.
They were called pagers. At first you could only send someone a phone number to return your call but later alphanumeric models allowed you to send and receive short text messages.
They are still used in many applications including emergency services, restaurant reservations, etc..
They are more reliable than their successors due to the short data burst and their use of the overlap in cellular and satellite signals.
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Old 11-21-2017, 07:31 AM
Novelty Bobble Novelty Bobble is offline
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In the UK, texting was popular from the mid-1990's onwards. I bought my first mobile phone in 1996 expressly for that function.
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Old 11-21-2017, 07:40 AM
jonesj2205 jonesj2205 is offline
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I loved my two-way pager. So much easier when I was on call.
But one of the reasons, IIRC, texting didn't catch on as quickly in US was most cell plans charged per text message. Very easy to rack up charges.
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Old 11-21-2017, 07:51 AM
Francis Vaughan Francis Vaughan is offline
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There is no doubt that the appeal of texting caught the telcos by surprise. I got my first GSM mobile phone in 1995. I was flabbergasted to see that the SMS function was not supported by all telcos. Then again, I had had an email account since about 1982. So had a pretty good idea of the appeal.

When you look at capability, remember that the early mobile (aka 'cell') phones were essentially devices intended for voice, and the communications protocol had no explicit digital payload. Even in GSM the SMS protocol was tacked onto the side as something of an afterthought. These were times when the world was ruled by such entities as the ITU, and for them voice was king. Everything was about how to optimise voice over limited bandwidth links. The idea of digital data was something quite foreign. This was pretty much the deal with all the telcos. Many many decades of technological development all directed at voice, and a mindset of monetising voice.

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Old 11-21-2017, 07:52 AM
gkster gkster is online now
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Also, Europeans were texting a lot before smart phones. It was in the States that it took so long to catch on.
The "texting capital of the world" (starting in the late 90s and until now) is the Philippines. In 2003, US users were sending an average of 13 texts a month, vs. 79 a month in Ireland, 120/month in South Korea and 195 a month in the Philippines.

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/scite...s-study/story/

Last edited by gkster; 11-21-2017 at 07:53 AM.
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Old 11-21-2017, 08:01 AM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
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The first 'text' message was done before cell phones, before touchtone. It was when your kid was told to ring me once when you get there, hang up so you don't get charged for the call. So there was a bit of negative stuff about texting from the point of view of the phone and cell carriers, they wanted you to use minutes.

Beepers and texting though them was seen as inferior to calling by the cell companies, but it was also cheaper. As beeper use exploded the profit dried up there. Cell phone companies didn't worry as the beeper market collapses on it's own due to price wars and didn't see much of the need to step in to a market with no profit left and still wanted people to use minutes.

Another aspect, the cell phone companies has left open part of their transmission protocol for future expansion which went unused, it was what set the limit to the numbers of characters in the original text messaging, so when they decided to add texting they already had the block of transmission time set aside.
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Old 11-21-2017, 08:11 AM
PoppaSan PoppaSan is offline
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And as of today I still cannot send or receive a text on my landline. Heck even the VM indicator waits hours sometimes.
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Old 11-21-2017, 08:23 AM
Terminus Est Terminus Est is offline
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The "texting capital of the world" (starting in the late 90s and until now) is the Philippines. In 2003, US users were sending an average of 13 texts a month, vs. 79 a month in Ireland, 120/month in South Korea and 195 a month in the Philippines.

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/scite...s-study/story/
A text message in the Philippines, both then and now, costs PHP 1. At current rates that's about 2 cents per text message. Plus you don't have to pay for incoming messages. And if the person you're texting is on the same carrier, it's likely free.
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:40 AM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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My first cell phone, which I think I got in the mid to late 90s, could receive texts but it could not send them. I remember wondering for years (literally) why my phone would sometimes beep, but no on was calling. Then I somehow got into the text function and saw these texts from over the years. This was a Motorola flip phone with the pull-out antenna.
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Old 11-21-2017, 10:26 AM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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You could not text in the 80s (as in the OP) because there weren't cell phone towers yet. By the 90s, though, there were and people were texting. I have never texted because I cannot use those impossibly small keyboards and I probably never will. I don't understand why it is so popular, but the holy grail for computer makers is voice input. Now maybe if I could use voice input to send a text....
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Old 11-21-2017, 10:38 AM
scr4 scr4 is offline
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I think the reason it wasn't developed in the 80s is because the original cellular network used analog signals, not digital. In fact, those analog cellular networks continued to operate till 2008.
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Old 11-21-2017, 11:53 AM
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I remember that it was much more popular in Europe to start with. The main reason was the SMS feature was originally free for some phone companies since it was unused space. The younger users used the text feature and did not have to pay to communicate with their friends. If they used voice, it would cost them. It was later when it became popular that the telco's started to realize they could commercialize this.
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Old 11-21-2017, 12:10 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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I avoided texting because at the time, it cost 15 cents per text sent or received.
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Old 11-21-2017, 12:27 PM
DPRK DPRK is offline
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I think the reason it wasn't developed in the 80s is because the original cellular network used analog signals, not digital. In fact, those analog cellular networks continued to operate till 2008.
As people have reminisced, there was plenty of digital radio and beepers and pagers (not to mention mobile phones, email, and so on), and new technology could have easily been implemented if necessary. The question should perhaps be, why was there not more massive popular demand for text messaging in 1985? Cost and marketing certainly have something to do with it; do most people need text messages now?

Last edited by DPRK; 11-21-2017 at 12:28 PM.
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Old 11-21-2017, 12:37 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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A communication protocol needs a critical mass to be viable. When the only texting-capable devices were expensive two-way pagers, only the very rich or those who needed them for their jobs had them. Which meant that those were the only people you could communicate with using them, which meant that there was no incentive for anyone else to want one even if they could afford them. You couldn't, for instance, text your spouse at the grocery store that you just noticed you're out of eggs, because you'd only have (at most) one texting device in the household. Once everyone had a device capable of it, though, it did catch on fairly quickly.
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Old 11-21-2017, 12:47 PM
filmstar-en filmstar-en is offline
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When mobile cellular networks first appeared, in the 1980s, it was an analogue world and the technologies were primarily designed to carry voice channels. There were also several competing standards, especially in North America. This made the mobile phones big, clunky and expensive. This was 1G.

The emergence of digital technologies for encoding voice data as packetised data, with all the benefits of error checking, frequency hopping and reuse, cell handover and more efficient ways of modulating the radio signal to carry data, that was the great leap forward. The market in the US was somewhat held back by lots of competing digital standard, but in Europe the GSM standard was widely adopted and eventually became the global standard. This was 2G.

GSM used a management channel to help control the network and it was possible for engineers to run tests by sending a simple text message. It was never intended to be anything more than that. SMS texting was never seriously envisioned as a service that anyone would want to pay for. Remember mobile phone contracts were expensive, the phones were status symbols and a premium service only affordable by businessmen with expense accounts. Imagine trying to sell a SMS texting service to that type of customer. They would look at you as if you were mad and claim that they simply wanted a phone to be a phone, none of that fooling with a tiny keyboard to send messages.

That changed when the economies of scale kicked in mobile phones became cheap enough for teenagers to afford. Mobile phones fit very well to the pattern of relentless chatter that is typical amongst the young. But the way voice calls are charged made this unaffordable. Someone, somewhere showed how to send an SMS text using a phone for free and it took off dramatically. Kids were busy sending texts to each other in class.

I remember worried engineers saying they were seeing larger and larger amounts of traffic on the management channel and they would have to do something about it. Eventually this came to the attention of marketing people and they turned it into a service. You really don't need a smartphone to text as long as you have nimble fingers and all the basic mobile phones could do this. Some kids could send dozens of messages a day and run up huge bills if their parents were not vigilant. However, the telecoms operators realised this was a huge money spinner and adapted their plans to bundle in free texts along with free voice minutes.

All those business guys? They used Blackberries for sending email from a mobile with a decent keyboard, that was integrated with their corporate email system. They, too got hooked on messaging. Sadly the Blackberry Corp, like Nokia and many other telecoms companies were taken by surprise when Apple cleverly overtook them by re-inventing the smartphone.

The Telecoms business, though based on a procession of technologies, is actually managed by quite cautious companies. The mobile phone manufacurers regarded their customers as the big telecoms operators, who thought they knew what sort of phone and service the end customers wanted. When the phones got into the hands of young people, suddenly the way phones were used to communicate changed dramatically. Only Apple seemed to understand this and it gave Jobs and co, the opportunity to carve out a business that disrupted the market. But that was not possible until the smartphone technology matured enough.

Even during the SMS/Text boom in the late nineties, there were companies who made the connection with the Internet. Even with 2G, it is possible to get a really thin data channel to make up a text based Internet like service called WAP. This was heavily marketed as 'mobile Internet' in 2000. A full seven years before the smartphones and 3G mobile networks were really mature enough to provide credible services and products. The Telecoms industry went from boom to bust in 2001 misjudging the development of technology and the demand from customers for new services, it took many years to recover.

Your timing has to be just right. Most companies are either too late, missing opportunities like Nokia. Or too early and oversell services and rely on technologies that are not quite ready. Customers also have to be ready for it and there is no telling quite how people will use a technology once it is in their hands.
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Old 11-21-2017, 12:48 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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I thought texting was pretty common in the late 90's. The hassle of writing with the number pad is the whole reason 4 txt speak .
Yeah, I was living in Europe (Hungary) at the time I got my first cell phone (a Nokia flip phone) c. 1999. Texting was already becoming a standard method of communication there. Talking to my friends in the US, it seems like the US lagged behind by several years before it whole-heartedly embraced texting. (Which, reading through this thread, several posters concur with this observation.)

Last edited by pulykamell; 11-21-2017 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 11-21-2017, 12:54 PM
steronz steronz is offline
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Who were you supposed to send these text messages to?

Remember that cell phones in the 80s were a privilege of the doctors, lawyers, and Hollywood elite. Cell towers were crazy expensive, and equipment and service plans were priced accordingly.

The good thing about early cell phones, however, was that you could instantly tap into a network of hundreds of millions of landline telephones. So a rich plastic surgeon in LA could call his patients, his office, his family, other businesses, etc. But if texting were around, he could what, text other rich plastic surgeons?

I think a more interesting question is, Why weren't home telegraph systems a thing? Because if people had been texting each other on landlines for a decade, then dedicated cellular texting devices might have had some utility. Is it just that nobody would want to send a text message to a phone if they didn't know who was going to be there to read it?

eta: Ninja'd by Chronos, always hit refresh on a stale tab before typing a response.

Last edited by steronz; 11-21-2017 at 12:55 PM.
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Old 11-21-2017, 01:40 PM
cochrane cochrane is online now
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You could not text in the 80s (as in the OP) because there weren't cell phone towers yet. By the 90s, though, there were and people were texting. I have never texted because I cannot use those impossibly small keyboards and I probably never will. I don't understand why it is so popular, but the holy grail for computer makers is voice input. Now maybe if I could use voice input to send a text....
My phone, and I suppose most others on the market, do have voice input. I certainly can compose a text by speaking, if I'm so inclined.
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Old 11-21-2017, 03:03 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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I knew a guy who claimed that IBM cheated out of a patent for the first touch-tone phones to be used for texting. He was also a major CT and saw some UFOs but he doesn't believe in aliens because he knew they were built and launched by the CIA, so his claim about the texting patent tends to fall on deaf ears.

A lot of the timing coincides with available inexpensive technology. You need inexpensive portable devices with usable keyboards. Texting also wasn't on the list of future technologies we all want, we wanted the cell phones, and camera phones, texting seemed like a step backward in technology. When people realized they could avoid actually talking to people through texting it began to take off.
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Old 11-21-2017, 03:34 PM
filmstar-en filmstar-en is offline
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I think a more interesting question is, Why weren't home telegraph systems a thing? Because if people had been texting each other on landlines for a decade, then dedicated cellular texting devices might have had some utility. Is it just that nobody would want to send a text message to a phone if they didn't know who was going to be there to read it?
Well the technical answer is that telephone network was designed to switch voice circuits, not send text messages. Digital circuits were available to connect routers or bridges together, but they were rationed and expensive. Only businesses could afford them. They were rationed because they generated interference on other lines: cross talk.
The huge mass market was for voice only lines. Now it is possible to send data over a voice line using a modem. Or, indeed, images using a fax machine (these were very popular bit of office equipment in the 1980s). Modems could convert a voice line into a digital line and connect two computers together, but it was slow, the data rates were a few kilobits per second, maxing out at about 56kilobits. Compare this to todays standard broadband line, that is measured in tens of megabits. Such slow speeds are fine for text based communication and there was a profusion of dialup bulletin board services. Much like this site, but without the graphics. A guy with a computer, some telephone lines and modems could create their own BBS and many did. Some were linked together into networks. AOL was the big one in the US. Microsoft had its BBS and there were many others. You could post messages, send email and chat. But, it wasn't really mass market. Not everyone had a computer and it was very much a niche market for computer nerds. Bill Gates really thought this was the future, he had to very quickly redirect Microsoft once he realised it is was not dialup BBS systems, but the Web that was going to the next big thing.

The problem was dialup modems were slow and unreliable, they were not 'always on'. You had to dialup and listen for the screetchy sound of modems synchronising until they locked onto each other you had a connection until the line dropped. No-one is going to do that to send one simple text message.

The technology leapt forward at about the same time as mobile phone technology went digital, then satellite TV and terrestial TV all moved to digital. The reason for this was the development of silicon chips dedicated to digital signal processing, squeezing the maximum amount of data carrying capacity out of a copper wire, cable, radio or microwave link. A DSL broadband router has the equivalent performance of 250 or more of those old modems all working on the same phone line, with a another 250 at the other end in the phone company office. All that crammed into a small chip in a broadband router.

The voice network based on copper cables was re-engineered by the big Telcos to carry data packets over digital modulated lines instead of being prioritised for analogue voice. This has been a huge undertaking by the telecoms companies and require very large investment, but these always on digital circuits have in turn enabled all the Internet technologies we use every day.

Some privileged people did have always on digital circuits from their company to their home in the 1980s. Though some were used by engineers, business executives would often have them, so they could send their email faster and access important management systems.

It has been always like this. When they built the railroads and laid telegraph lines alongside, the morse code operators would often chat using morse when the lines were not being used for telegrams. Some of the morse operators were young women and some guys and sometimes they took the train to visit each other for a date and that was in the 1880s. What was missing all the way up until the 1990s was a mass market technology that brought such a communication link into an individuals home and was easy for anyone to use. Quite soon after, it was on a personal smartphone, a technology that is now reaching billions of people.

Texting gave rise to Twitter, a technology perfect for bite sized morsels wisdom whose utility is now appreciated at the highest levels of business and politics, for better or worse!
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Old 11-21-2017, 03:48 PM
whitetho whitetho is online now
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I think a more interesting question is, Why weren't home telegraph systems a thing? Because if people had been texting each other on landlines for a decade, then dedicated cellular texting devices might have had some utility. Is it just that nobody would want to send a text message to a phone if they didn't know who was going to be there to read it?
I'm aware of a few texting-like examples that go back more than a century.

In 1917, Irving Vermilya wrote about how in 1903 the teens in his neighborhood set up a private telegraph system for what today would be called "instant messaging", using Morse code and lots of abbreviations, that operated a 24/7 partyline: Amateur Number One (telegraph extract).

In 1912, there was a report from Germany about The Teleprinter, by which "Each office is supplied with one of the new instruments, and anyone can use it to send messages to another subscriber just as he would operate a typewriter."

In his book I Looked & I Listened, Ben Gross mentions that "in the thirties" his New York City newspaper began a short-lived experiment where a housewife wrote radio program reviews, and:
Quote:
We established communication with each other via a two-way teletype system which had been installed in her home and in my office. One moved the "Send" switch and typed a message; then turned on the "Receive" key, and on a thin roll of tape words miraculously to appear. Such a contraption, no novelty in a newspaper office, created a sensation in the living room of a New York suburban home. Acquaintances and friends came from miles around to view the wondrous gadget.

Promptly at 4 and 10 P.M. every day we followed a routine. I turned on the machine, pressed a signal bell button and then typed: 'Hello. Are you ready?' Back came the message: "Hiya! Feeling fine today. Let's go." Before we went, however, there were minutes of chatter with the housewife (whom I shall call Helen). She would tell me of herself, her husband, her children and the state of their health. Often she would add: "There's quite a gang here in the living room watching me send this stuff."

There was quite a gang indeed. For within a few days Helen had become a town celebrity. At the A&P, shoppers pointed to her as probably the only woman in the world with a teletype in the front parlor, and at the neighborhood movie house she was besieged by autograph hunters.
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Old 11-21-2017, 03:49 PM
Tastes of Chocolate Tastes of Chocolate is offline
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Cost was also a big reason that texting lagged behind in the US. It wasn't until recently that unlimited texting became a standard part of a phone package. I used to pay as much as 25 cents for each incoming or outgoing text. A short conversation could easily run a couple of dollars, while I had more voice minutes than I would use. Much cheaper to call someone.
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Old 11-21-2017, 03:55 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
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As pointed out by others, it was a convergence of technologies.

Digital phone networks, and digital phones, were relatively new until the mid-90's or later. So critical mass was an issue. Display technology and the chips to power it were expensive. In this day where a text display or even a graphical LED screen are almost throw-away technology, we forget how painful and expensive it was to make text-display technology. The first cellphones digital still had one-line displays because the phone number was all the phone needed to show... The secret to making it cheap was volume and customized chips to do text, produced in volume. Which didn't happen until the market was there - chicken and egg scenario. Why spend millions designing custom chips (and hence making cellphones even MORE expensive) when there was not yet the demand?

If you are old enough, you will remember the big debate about - does a child of 14 - 12 - 10 - 8 - 6 need a cellphone? They were expensive (at he time)! Each text message was 25 cents - 10 cents - 5 cents. Every year what was acceptable became less and less. My wife was still using an analog phone when in 2001 we were in Italy. We sat in a rail car for a five-hour journey, an two kids sat across from each other, texting back and for and giggling. If that had been the USA or Canada, it would probably have meant a $30 phone bill for that night alone. (Remember news stories about kids racking up $600 in texting bills in one month?)

Cellular is still a major cash cow here in North America. Walk through any mall and check out how many stores or kiosks are selling them.
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Old 11-21-2017, 04:14 PM
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Cost was also a big reason that texting lagged behind in the US. It wasn't until recently that unlimited texting became a standard part of a phone package. I used to pay as much as 25 cents for each incoming or outgoing text. A short conversation could easily run a couple of dollars, while I had more voice minutes than I would use. Much cheaper to call someone.
Unlimited texting in the US didn't get to be a big thing until competition from things like WhatsApp started getting big. Even if you have a tiny data cap there is no way to make a dent in it sending text. Nobody is going to pay to send texts if they can send them for free using their data plan.
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Old 11-21-2017, 04:57 PM
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It wasn't mobile, but a lot of the social aspect of texting was taken care of by AOL Messenger. People forget how ubiquitous it was in the late 90s, early 00s.
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Old 11-21-2017, 05:50 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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And other similar programs like ICQ, which I think might have been available to the general public even before AIM.
  #35  
Old 11-21-2017, 06:30 PM
mixdenny mixdenny is offline
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One of the problems with this whole discussion, is that the OP started in the middle of the communication revolution, not the beginning. Cell phones were not the beginning.

Back in the early 1990s I was the head of a large group (600+) of collectors across the country, and researching for my newsletter and eventually my book. We were a very energetic group seeking an extremely hot collectible: Watt Pottery. Every Sunday evening, as people got back home from their local flea markets and antique shows, the calls started coming in.

"OMG, guess what I found?" "Denny, have you ever heard of this piece?" "I got 20 new pieces and practically stole them!" We spent hours on the long distant lines every week and it cost a fortune. Then it happened, the step you guys are ignoring:

Email.

By the mid 1990s we all had computers and modems. Holy Crap, we can gather our thoughts, and write them down and send them! And shortly after - photos! How did we ever get along without this?

I actually decried this movement, as excellent as it was, because we all lost touch with each other's voices. It would be months between hearing my friends that I used to talk to every week.

Then, in the late 1990s - cell phones. We began talking again, and now, we could even talk while at the antique shows!!! Wow! We were all back in touch.

Then the texting started and once again, the ability to put down (edited) thoughts overruled the said-and-done nature of the phone call.

Slowly. Some people. like my grandson, used texting in a different way. We paid his cell phone for him back then and the month he discovered texts my phone bill shot up $600 dollars! 1200 texts, how can that be? Here is how he and his buddies texted:

"Sup?" send

"Nothing, you?" send

"Hanging out." send

"Cool." send

Every freaking phrase was a separate text. They were texting back and forth just like they talked, and every *send* added up fifty cents at a time. Fortunately the cell company was sympathetic and dropped most of the bill. Once. And we dropped paying for his cell.

Dennis
  #36  
Old 11-21-2017, 08:40 PM
filmstar-en filmstar-en is offline
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In Europe there are a lot of countries next to each other and roaming with a mobile phone between networks in different countries can be hugely expensive. It is the same with texting and data. Lots of huge bills run up accidentally. It is improved lately with a regulation from the EU setting a maximum charge and extending the deal you have in your home country across Europe.

Until last June to get around the danger of running up huge bills, especially if you phone has a data hungry apps.
People would buy local SIM cards from vending machines or shops and do the 'SIM card shuffle' when you got an airport. If you moved between several countries the only solution was some kind of Global SIM deal, which were invariably expensive.

Despite some efforts by telecoms operators to block it, Whatsapp became immensely popular way to solve this problem. If you have smartphone with the Whatsapp app can you can track down some free Wifi, then you can text and call for free across international borders. These days you can also do video calls. So a free lunch for end users! What is there not to like? As long as you don't mind sharing the data they collect about you with the Facebook family of companies and presumably various government agencies.

Whether these companies mine any gold from monitoring the behaviour of their chatty customers is another matter. As is rather old fashioned notions of personal privacy and who owns the data collected about you and who watches the watchers. These are all big issues and the telecoms operators are not happy to see their revenues decline and lobby regulators against these 'over the top' data apps like Whatsapp, Skype, etc. Telecoms versus Silicon Valley and Big Government taking a keen interest in order to watch over the little people.

Who knows where will it end?
  #37  
Old 11-22-2017, 07:32 AM
Francis Vaughan Francis Vaughan is offline
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Charging for text messaged was an absolute goldmine for the telcos. Given they had no idea what texting was before it happened to them, it was basically money unexpectedly raining from the sky. The charges they imposed for SMS was pure gravy. The actual messages run on the comms side channel, and use, for all intents, no bandwidth. (It is bandwidth in the cells that is the precious resource.) SMS was the most expensive data comms protocol by a few orders of magnitude. For no reason other than that the telcos got away with charging that sort of money for it. Now it has languished, overtaken by a whole raft of other competitors, all of which offer a superior capability.

The charging of global roaming is also little more than telcos colluding to gouge more money out of customers. The telcos charge one another extortionate rates for conduitiing one another's customers communications (whether it be voice or data) over their networks. They then pass these charges on to their customers. After all they got charged for something their customer did. The justification for imposing these insane charges in the first place? "If they charge us something insane, we will charge them the same back." Which is basically a cartel. As noted, the EU finally cracked down on their telcos for what is little short of racketeering. Sadly there has been little progress outside the EU on this. It isn't in the interests of the telcos to relax these charges, as they are a surrogate for the manner they rip money out of their own customers, relaxing the charge only helps a competitor's customers, and they are all happy with extra money they get keeping the cartel running.
  #38  
Old 11-22-2017, 08:46 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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Originally Posted by guizot View Post
Also, Europeans were texting a lot before smart phones. It was in the States that it took so long to catch on.
Among other things, because we didn't have pagers; in the US and in the mid-90s, my friends who had pagers would get texts with those; and because we were also slower to the internet. That's two ways of sending text Americans got before cellphones and we did not. Most European countries have also never really developed a culture of "leave the message", because we got dropped calls before we got answering machines.

During the time when companies charged for SMSs and for picking up, people here developed codes based on dropping the calls: if it rings twice times and then drops, it means you need to bring the dessert; four rings, don't bring anything. The purposefully-missed call didn't accrue charges.
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Last edited by Nava; 11-22-2017 at 08:51 AM.
  #39  
Old 11-22-2017, 09:22 AM
TokyoBayer TokyoBayer is offline
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By the mid 90s, almost all Japanese houses had a phone / fax machine. It was for more popular there for personal use than in the States. The kids were using numeric only pagers for text messages but using codes for words. Sometimes someone would sent a page by mistake to my pager and it would be thing long strong of code which I had no idea what it meant.

My first cell phone in the mid 90s could text, but it was a pain just on the numbers, especially trying to send a message in kanji. Predictive texting really caught on because of that. Unfortunately, there was no predictive texting for English words at the time.
  #40  
Old 11-22-2017, 10:09 PM
filmstar-en filmstar-en is offline
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Japan was widely envied amongst Telcos because NTT had worked out a way of charging for services accessible using a mobile phone in the late 1990s. Mobile internet was going to be the next big thing and there was a race to provide big portal websites to service mobile users. Millions were spent on this. Sadly it was all extremely oversold. Smartphones very clunky in 2000, and could only way to provide anything that looked like a webpage over was a very cut down version of HTML and the data speed was a modest 9.6k. A lot of money was wasted on mobile internet services that were launched prematurely.

The Japanese mobile phone market had some unique characteristics. Suppliers and parts for the mobile phone manufacturers were co-ordinated by government, NTT provided the network and charging system and there was a huge demand because far less public access to the internet using desktops and laptops than in other developed markets. They managed to make it work.

The smartphone market really did not begin to take off until 2007 and Apple entered the market and managed to produce the iphone that had stable software and the kind of user interface that customers acutally found easy to use. By that time 3G services with decent data rates were available that made browsing the internet on a mobile phone useable. Apple also created the apps store and found a way to make money out of mobile phone purchases for apps and music.

All these large corporations are desperate to make money out of the huge markets associated with mobile and internet connected users. They try to innovate, but they often do not understand who their customers are and what they want. The mobile phone makers copy each others idea and spend huge amounts of suing each other (Apple v Samsung). The latest attempt by the Telcos to get a slice of the Internet access market is to start charging the video streaming companies for a fast-lane for their services. Smaller companies won't be able to afford it. Yup, Net neutrality is on the way out, the Telcos in the US have the FCC in their pocket. They have friends in high places.

This kind of attitude could strangle new Internet services being developed in the US in tech centres like Silicon Valley and it will move to Europe or, more likely Asia. The Internet is a global network and exists in many countries. It is very difficult for any one country or company to dominate. Though some do very well by moving their profits to wherever the taxes are lowest.

These unholy cartels never stop trying to carve out a lucrative monopoly and or steal each others lunch. They are pimples on the backside of progress. It is up to governments to make sure markets stay free and competitive. But some politicians just don't get how important anti-trust legislation is for a healthy economy that encourages innovation.

Mobile telecoms is now looking to 5G services and that will enable mass mobile interactive video streaming. The mobile videophone will have finally arrived. Maybe with the camera mounted on a personal microdrone. It will also enable the transmission of huge amount of low latency data from sensors needed that will be needed to make driving vehicles benefit.

Perhaps we will looking back with amusement at all those millenials with their 'self-sticks', commuting in smokey vehicles that were dependent on human drivers and cities shrouded in chemical smog. We will wonder how on earth people managed without 3D virtual companions and apartments whose walls transform into vivid, immersive scenes. To think that people had to go on exhausting journeys to reach places where they could experience some nice place rather than simply download a 360 degree livestream from Netflix corp.

Trying to guess what technologies will shape future is pretty difficult. There are just too many factors that could accelerate or stymie their progress, as much a part of business and politics as technology. What people do with these technologies is always a surprise.
  #41  
Old 11-24-2017, 06:09 PM
SCSimmons SCSimmons is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filmstar-en View Post
The technology leapt forward at about the same time as mobile phone technology went digital, then satellite TV and terrestial TV all moved to digital. The reason for this was the development of silicon chips dedicated to digital signal processing, squeezing the maximum amount of data carrying capacity out of a copper wire, cable, radio or microwave link. A DSL broadband router has the equivalent performance of 250 or more of those old modems all working on the same phone line, with a another 250 at the other end in the phone company office. All that crammed into a small chip in a broadband router.

The voice network based on copper cables was re-engineered by the big Telcos to carry data packets over digital modulated lines instead of being prioritised for analogue voice. This has been a huge undertaking by the telecoms companies and require very large investment, but these always on digital circuits have in turn enabled all the Internet technologies we use every day.
Bingo. Two-way alphanumeric pagers (basically the sort of device the OP is wondering about) were a fast-growing product from about 1995 to 2000. The digital paging networks (eg. the Flex network that MobileMedia/Arch Wireless built) were massively more efficient than the cell phone system at transmitting text messages, which let the paging companies undersell the cellphone companies for that service even with the overhead of having to buy a separate device for that service. But those were your choices: buy an expensive two-way alpha pager and fairly cheap paging service, or pay through the nose for text messages sent on the cellphone network. At those prices, nobody has big market penetration.

Then the cellphone networks made massive upgrades and were able to fold cheaper text messaging into cell service. That started the ball rolling for widespread use of text messaging, and also for a huge crash in the paging industry. Eventually the tattered remains of basically every major paging service provider consolidated into USA Mobility, which is mainly back in the business of providing numeric pagers to physicians.

(I was laid off from Arch in 2002. Got to see most of this mess first-hand.)
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