Starting 25 years ago, we’re used to people stopping conversations, on hearing their phone bleep.
Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, webmail and a plethora of apps now vie for our attention. But for years, SMS (or texting) was the only way to exchange messages by phone.
If you Google “Who invented SMS” it lists, amongst others: Matti Makkonen, Finn Trosby, Friedhelm Hillebrand, Bernard Ghillebaert, Oculy Silaban, Neil Papworth. And that’s just Googles’s first page!(Feb 2013)
The Authority of Print
Research wasn’t always like this. Previously, people visited public buildings, where you could access books, for free. Called libraries, you’d ask a knowledgeable , highly educated and under-employed librarian to source a book for you.
Asking ‘Who created SMS?’, you’d most likely come away with a book called “Short Message Service”, published by Wiley in 2010. It contains names of anybody of importance in the creation of SMS. It’s a book of forensic detail.
Fake News, Alternative Facts…
The problem with ‘Googling’ is despite it’s increasingly complex algorithms, it still lacks discrimination for the truth. Wikipedia actually fairs far better than perceived (as anyone who’s read the study pitting itself – and winning – against Encyclopedia Britannica). However, it often lacks detail in complex and controversial areas.
So serious journalists sort through contradictory Google search results. Many, on short deadlines, go down the ill-advised democratic route, by picking whatever answer seems to have the most independent citations.
Check Sources, Not How Often You Read It
Most Google searches conclude Matti Makkonen invented SMS. However, his name doesn’t appear anywhere in the comprehensively researched Wiley book on SMS. How can this be?
The problem is it’s quicker to duplicate than write original content. So, an article with erroneous accounts gets published. More articles are published based on these incorrect facts. This gets more citations in Google, adding undeserved credibility. “If everyone’s saying it, it’s can’t be wrong”.
Well it can… and it is!
“Repeat a lie often enough and people believe it”.
Whilst the Brexit campaign succeeded, what’s more interesting is Remainer’s post-Referendum propaganda campaign (by BBC, most MPs).
Popularised by propagandist Joseph Goebbels, you use repetition, to deceive the public. So take a phrase from your enemy, such as the ‘£350m to the NHS’ on the bus and keep repeating it as an unfulfilled lie.
It was carefully selected as it’s complex to defend. Firstly, it was an analogy, not a pledge. Secondly, whilst we do pay the EU £350m per week, the EU keeps £110 – £120m of it and gives back £230-£240m.
So, the money we get from the EU is actually UK money. As a net contributor, 16% of EU’s funding comes from the UK (almost a sixth). All the remaining EU countries, other than France and Germany, take more than they give.
And who wants to read all that. So… ‘where’s the £350m to the NHS!”. Once opposition is discredited and debate shut down, emotion-led metaphors were introduced. No longer questioning evidence, it’s hoped repeating phrases like ‘falling off a cliff’ or ‘crashing out’ scares the populace into inaction, based purely on feelings.
Goebbels would be proud of the Remain campaign and probably want to take some credit for it.
Defining Text Messaging
Anyone can come up with an idea. Putting it into practice is what counts. In the early ’80s, plenty of people had ideas about mobile messaging.
The system we recognise as SMS today, started with a document in the joint Franco-German R & D trials, October 1984. The brief was to design:
- an alphanumeric message transmission service
- for mobile users with acknowledgement capabilities.
Creators of The Concept
SMS needs to operate over a ‘GSM network’. The minuted meetings show no link between Matti Makkonen and the conception of SMS. Archives, and subsequent accounts, show just two initiators: Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert.
Those Who Made It Work
Hillebrand and Ghillebaert guided concept development. However, they weren’t responsible for shaping the technical solution. Finn Trosby, Kevin Holley and Ian Harris delivered the technical solution.
These are the five most credible innovators of SMS – delivering both a brilliant concept and viable technical solution that survives 25 years on.