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Where would we be without Professor Scott Fahlman? We might be emoticon-less. You see, on this day in 1982 the professor posted a suggestion to a Carnegie Melon bulletin board in which he proposes the use of character sequences to indicate jokes and not-jokes.
The original message had been archived on backup tape but had also been forgotten and it wasn't until September 10, 2002 when the message was retrieved that the origin of emoticons was known.
The use of emoticons became widespread and helped provide additional clues to the meaning of our words in email and TXT messaging. It's probably fair to say that emoticons helped avoid a fair number of misunderstandings.
The message Professor Fahlman sent:
19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-)
From: Scott E Fahlman
I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:
Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark
things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use
For more information check out http://www.cs.cmu.edu/smiley/
For a pretty fascinating dig into all things emoticon see the emoticon Wikipedoa page