The very first text message using the SMS protocol was sent from one mobile phone to another on December 3 of 1992, meaning that as of this writing, texting is a 25 year old phenomenon. While the ability for consumers to type up a quick SMS message on a phone keypad is a bit more recent than that, and the texting explosion that led to the feature bloat that led to the proliferation of smartphones is even newer, the technology that officially kicked off the shift from cellular telephones having nothing but voice technology on board is now a quarter century old.
The text message itself was unique in that it was typed up on a computer, and sent via an early mobile phone. It was sent by Neil Papworth, an engineer with Sema Group Telecoms who was working on a project called the Short Message Service Centre, on contract from Vodafone UK. Papworth and his team had finished developing the initial draft of the technology, and he headed to a Vodafone UK cell site in Newbury to install the first incarnation of SMS technology. Once it was up and running, Papworth sent a test message to Vodafone's Richard Jarvis. Jarvis was at an office Christmas party at the time that the message was sent, and it read, "Merry Christmas." Upon receiving it, Jarvis knew that Papworth and his team had been successful in building out a messaging protocol that was compatible with traditional cellular voice networks.
In the intervening years, that same technology eventually led to WAP mobile web, the first protocol to allow consumers to access the internet on their cell phones. From there, WAP 2.0 and Java 2 Mobile Edition ruled the day, and largely held their own in the consumer market until companies like BlackBerry, Nokia, Microsoft, and Palm began to expand beyond the business realm. Apple later unveiled the first iPhone in 2007, and the following year saw the dawn of Android. Google's platform has a rich history of its own, following several trends in mobile tech that popped up in a relatively short time. Some, like LTE, are still around and more successful than ever, while others, such as WiMAX and strange device designs, have largely fallen by the wayside, bringing us to where we are today.