Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

December 7, 2012

The text heard 'round the world'

By Rebecca Todd
CNHI

— "What's for dinner?"

It's the most common text I get. It comes from my youngest daughter on a daily basis. Sometimes she is in her room and I am in the kitchen when I get the text, because it would be too much trouble to actually walk into the kitchen and ask me in person. She would actually have to put her phone down and take her headphones out in order to hear my answer anyway. What a hassle.

You know how since texting began everything is so great? You know how since texting began, communication between family members has improved and teens have become more socially active?

Yeah, me neither. Texting has not only destroyed communication. It's become so addicting it's commonly considered a hazard.

Twenty years ago this week, texting reinvented communication. The first text message was sent by Neil Papworth. He sent the message from a computer terminal at an office Christmas party to a friend's cell phone. It read simply, "Merry Christmas." That's nice since he was at the party and could have walked up to the friend to say it. But the texting thing was way cooler and, you know, got his name remembered as the first texter. Good for him.

A fellow named Matti Makkonen holds the title of "father of SMS." He is the one who developed the technology he first conceived in 1984. He says he thought it would be useful for quick business communications.

By the way, Makkonen doesn't really like the attention and rarely gives interviews. I can't say that I blame him considering the way the whole thing has evolved, although he claims he's happy about how it all progressed. Now we can all say, "Merry Christmas," without actually talking to anyone. Good for him as well.

To me it's ironic that the first text message was a message that is commonly one of hope and happiness. Now we're stuck with something that looks more like "mry xmas;" because who has time to type it out, let alone walk up to someone and say it in person?

Most people now have smart phones that can perform a multitude of technological miracles. They can give you directions, play thousands of songs, shoot video complete with special effects, and play endless games. You can use them as a calendar, a calculator, and to check the weather, sports scores, and stock market. You can watch "Jersey Shore" if you missed the last episode, which would be a tragedy. You can also strap on a blue tooth and walk around looking like a moron talking to yourself. This is apparently handy for those trips to Walmart where it would be too cumbersome to use a phone while grabbing boxes of Hostess products that may soon be gone forever; another tragedy.

But most importantly you can text. No need to talk to people at all, just send them a message.

Personally, I hope I do not get any messages that say "mry xmas" this year. I do however, hope that I will hear it; spoken by a human voice in a face-to-face situation.

I hope I hear it a lot.

- Rebecca Todd is a freelance writer and the author of the book "What's the Point?" available at booklocker.com.