The first SMS message was sent exactly 20 years ago, in 1992, in the United Kingdom. And since then, it’s become the most used mobile data service ever. It’s used more than the phone part of your cell phone; over 190,000 texts are sent every second. And they’re all 160 characters or less. Check out this awesome infographic (warning—get your scrolling finger ready):
The success of SMS comes from its smart design. At the time, signalling formats required a maximum of 128 bytes of data to be sent at a time. This was eventually improved to 140 bytes, also known as 160 characters.
But that’s from a design over 20 years old. Our data infrastructure today is so efficient you can get a 1080p HD video on your computer in a matter of seconds, and SMS was designed when you couldn’t even send an audio file that quickly.
And it’s one of the most overpriced things, too. Read about how one company literally charged 10,000,000% more than what seems fair.
In this world of fast data, why is a 140-byte text so expensive? Because there’s not a good replacement that people want. If there were, it would already be out there and we’d be using it.
Coming up with a good way to package and send data is something computer scientists do for a living. Doesn’t sound cool at first glance? Consider that texts are used to save lives during natural disasters, and have helped people overthrow despotic governments, and help keep friends in touch during their time of need. What’s cooler than that?