The History of the ’emoticon’ (8>D

sunday morn  One of my favorite shows on a lazy Sunday morning is (appropriately) CBS Sunday Morning.  One segment was about the invention of emoticons.  (8>)  In the interview Dr. Fahlman stated that in the early days of inter-office email (imagine that!) none of his colleagues got “my wicked sarcastic humor.   So I made up this smiley face so that they would know when I was joking.”  (:-D

Since the dawn of communication between man there have been many symbols, codes and punctuation used to communicate emotions and feelings difficult to represent through text. Early examples can be seen in Morse code abbreviations from the 1850’s and print publications in the early 1900’s.
There is no clear date as to when the first emoticon was used nor is it clear who really invented the first emoticon. It is however generally accepted that the common sideways smiley face in use today was invented by Scott Fahlman in 1982.emoticons
On the morning of September 19, 1982, the use of the first smiley face and frowning face emoticons was proposed by research professor Scott E. Fahlman, from the department of computer science at the Carnegie Mellon University in the USA. In 2002, this claim was verified after the original back-up tapes containing the postings were retrieved by Jeff Baird.    (8>(
In his message, Professor Fahlman originally suggested the use of this emoticon 🙂 after funny and humorous posts on the message board and the use of this emoticon 🙁 for every thing else that was not meant to be funny and all serious remarks. The frowning face emoticons used today are meant as an indication of anger and sadness instead. Here is a copy of his original post:

<19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman 🙂
From: Scott E Fahlman

I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:    🙂

Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes – given current trends. For this, use    : -(

Not long after, dozens of variations were being created and used on boards across the Internet. Nowadays, thousands of text and graphical emoticons (:>p…….. are in use and everyday more are being created and circulated on the web worldwide. You can download a countless number of free emoticons from our website, just head over to the emoticons homepage and take your pick.  Note:  We have come so far from these primitive little squiggles that when I published this post the program automatically changed the emoticons for little faces.  (sigh! We’re losing control, folks!) 

We have since added eyebrows, noses, eyes, whatever makes it more fun!!  Thank you, Dr. Fahlman….little did you know what you had started and that’s the real fun about the whole thing!!   (;>)emoticon





In addition to my twice weekly blog I also feature an interview with another author once a month. So come along with me; we shall sneak into these writers’ special places, be a fly on the wall and watch them create!   Barbara Delinsky will be my September author.

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