Happy Birthday, Smiley!

Smiley Face in Cappuccino Foam

Thirty-five years ago today marks the origin of emoticons and emoji.

Since tone is subtle and not always easily transmitted through pure text, Carnegie Mellon University Professor Scott E. Fahlman posted the smiley as a solution to signify humor within messages. On September 19, 1982 at 11:44 AM, he suggested the following on an electronic bulletin board:

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

: – (

Since then, emoticons have become ubiquitous within emails, instant messages, and SMS phone text messages. I would argue that they are almost as important for electronic communication as the colon, exclamation point, period, and perhaps both the adjective and adverb, as they easily denote feelings or irony that might not be detected through textual context alone.

Happy 35th Birthday, Smiley.