Monday, December 3, 2012

And a very merry Christmas to you too, Neil Papworth.


Twenty years ago today I was a 17 year old high school senior in a tiny town in Wyoming.  My friends and I talked to each other on phones--the kind with cords. Our conversations were brief--mostly just long enough to make arrangements to get together so we could talk face to face.  And if we had something to say to each other that we didn't want all the other ears in our house to hear and we couldn't talk in person, we'd sometimes leave notes at each other's houses.  And my longtime childhood friends I had recently left on the opposite side of the country?  We sent real letters.  Like, with stamps and envelopes. Quaint, I know.  I didn't own a computer, and e-mail wasn't something available to the general public.  The communication options available in 1992 were not ideal for shy, awkward kids who moved a lot.  Like me.

Also twenty years ago today, somewhere in England thousands of miles away from that hick town in Wyoming, Neil Papworth unknowingly changed my future life for the better.  He was testing this new technology called SMS messaging, and he sent the very first text message ever.  It said, "Merry Christmas."

I was late to the texting party,  but once I got started, I became an overachiever. I am valedictorian of texting. They estimate that 200,000 texts are sent per minute. I'm probably personally responsible for a third of them.  I wasn't exaggerating when I said Mr. Papworth's achievement changed my future life for the better.  Texting is a godsend for people like me.  Because even though I'm 37 rather than 17, I'm still shy and awkward, I still hate talking on the phone, and I still move a lot.

E-mail will always be my first love.  It's the main reason I was able to maintain any friendships at all when I've moved in the past.  But then I started dating Facebook and e-mail mostly became a fond memory,  like that old boyfriend you still think about years later.  But then I met texting and we've been having a hot and heavy affair for a few years now.  I'm still seeing Facebook, but texting and I are going steady. We're going to prom. I'm wearing texting's class ring. (Don't tell, but sometimes I text and Facebook at the same time. And sometimes I'm thinking about e-mail while I do it.)

Texting has allowed me to build relationships with people that I probably wouldn't have otherwise.  Normal people can make those connections through phone calls.  If you've read even one post here, you clearly know that I am not normal.  So today I celebrate the anniversary of texting, and I honor Neil Papworth and the others who created the technology that allowed him to text "Merry Christmas" 20 years ago. What they gave me was more than the ability to send words through my phone.  They gave me human connection within my comfort zone.  They gave me friends I cherish.  They've all but eliminated the miles that separate me from those I care about.  Merry Christmas indeed.


5 comments:

jaacs said...

Oh, I'm with you on this one. It is actually kind of funny, but mostly ridiculous, how many times I've had to up our texting plan because I've gone over and it is only the middle of the month. I go back down and convince myself I don't need to text. It works for a couple of months and there I am on the phone changing things...again!

"Hick town", huh? lol. Where did you used to live? I'm in WY for now. Not terrible...much MUCH better since becoming a wife and mother. I sort of love it, actually...but it looks like grad school might be in my husbands future and we may be off in the next year or two.

jaacs said...

Oh, I'm with you on this one. It is actually kind of funny, but mostly ridiculous, how many times I've had to up our texting plan because I've gone over and it is only the middle of the month. I go back down and convince myself I don't need to text. It works for a couple of months and there I am on the phone changing things...again!

"Hick town", huh? lol. Where did you used to live? I'm in WY for now. Not terrible...much MUCH better since becoming a wife and mother. I sort of love it, actually...but it looks like grad school might be in my husbands future and we may be off in the next year or two.

Brandi said...

I lived in Evanston. It was a sage brush hell. I've been to other areas of WY and they're pretty. Evanston is decidedly NOT pretty. And when you're a teenager and you've grown up 30 minutes outside of New York City in Connecticut, Evanston really IS the definition of hell.

princess apr said...

I rarely text. It is the most unreliable way of reaching me. On the off-chance my phone is on, it's never near me. I do, however, check my email constantly at work, at home, on my iPad. I probably check email non-stop until I go to bed. I check my email more than my texts on my phone.

That said, with my new phone, I CAN text. Just don't expect a response. *g*

momofsomja said...

I hate to say this, because it goes along with all the things I've said I'd never do, like have a child who's hair is the same 'do from the day before, or spawn a two year old who strips off their clothes down to naked...in the shopping cart while I'm comparing shampoo, or the kind of mother who hands her child an ipad or smart phone to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while grocery shopping so that she can think for two seconds about what she was supposed to buy. I'll never be one of those mothers!... Yeah right,I never thought I'd need texting, and now I NEED texting! I can't live without texting...and email, since I can check it from my smart phone while texting! It's my connection to grown people! Yes, I am one of those mothers!

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