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?