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Twenty years after the birth of SMS, its creator consents to a text-only interview

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Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen famously dreamed up the idea for the SMS (Short Message Service) in a Copenhagen pizza shop in 1984, and the first message ("Happy Christmas") was sent to a Vodafone UK cellphone from a PC on December 3, 1992. Since then, an estimated 8 trillion texts have been sent, and now the normally recalcitrant pioneer has given the BBC a rare interview (appropriately via text message), where he discussed "txtspk,' keypads vs. touchscreens, and the next big tech development.

While described as the father of SMS, Makkonen is still reluctant to take sole credit, saying it was "the result of a joint effort to collect ideas and write a specification." On top of that, he never felt the idea was patentable and therefore never saw a penny from the invention, despite its present day pervasiveness. As for textspeak, the engineer refrains from creating abbreviated messages himself, saying "my passion is to write correct language (Finnish), using all 160 characters." He's happy to do this using a modern touchscreen phone, although he couldn't resist using the interview to pay a charmingly backhanded compliment, saying they're "slow enough (that I can) think and sometimes even edit what I write."

[Image credit: Nokia]

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