Mary   03 Dec 2012   E-tools

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Twenty years ago today, Neil Papworth sent the world's first SMS on Vodafone UK’s GSM network. It said: Merry Christmas.

To mark the occasion, Vodacom SA interviewed Neil by text...

Q: What was the idea behind trying to send a text message that day?

Neil> We were demonstrating that txt msging worked outside the lab.

Q: Why were you picked to send the message?

Neil> I was one of a number of ppl testing and had done much of the installation & integration on the customer site.

Q: How did you check the message was delivered, where was the receiving party?

Neil> Richard Jarvis was @ the Vdf [Vodafone] Christmas party. A colleague next to him was on the phone (how old-fashioned!) to a Vdf mgr next to me.

Q: How did you come up with "Merry Christmas" on December 3rd? Did you think it would take that long to deliver? :-)

Neil> What else would u send to a Christmas party ? :-)

Q: What was the moment, the atmosphere like when the message was sent and delivered?

Neil> It was a professional moment. We were under pressure 2 deliver, & we did. When it works, u just think "GR8 !"

Q: When did you realise you were the pioneer of a majorly successful global communication tool?

Neil> Ha, well I didn't even think about it b4 it was widely reported on the 10th anniversary. So, about 10 yrs ago !

Q: What impact did the SMS have on your life personally?

Neil> I continued working with SMS for almost 20 yrs. Every yr I get a good 5 mins of fame, from coverage in the local paper 2 starring in a Superbowl ad!

Q: What was the most important or most memorable SMS you have sent or received?

Neil> Announcing the births of my 3 kids 2 family & friends.

Q: What famous person would you like to send a text message to and what would you write?

Neil> I'm a big F1 fan. I'd txt fellow Brit Jenson Button & say, "C u @ the race in Montreal. Fancy a pint ?". U got his # ?

Who should never text you?

Neil> My kids. Until they r old enough 2 own a phone & pay the bill themselves. :-)

Imagine you had the chance to send a text message to all mobile phones in the world - what would your message be?

Neil> Don't txt & drive!

Q. When did you write a real letter for the last time?

Neil> OMG. When I was @ Vodacom in Johannesburg I wrote some letters 2 my mum ! That was maybe 1994 !

I got my first mobile phone for Christmas 2001 and was suitably awed at the power of text messaging. Now, I take it for granted, and wonder what the next great advance will be. I can't even remember what my first text said. Something inspiring, no doubt, like 'hello'!

Do you remember yours?

 

 

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