Belfast Telegraph

Size does matter when it comes to text, just ask any e-male like me!

By Robert McNeill

Let's talk about txts. Or texts, if you don't suffer from loose vowels. Texting celebrated its 20th birthday this week. And the first words of the first ever text? "Merry Christmas." Kinda sweet.

The message was sent on December 3, 1992, by Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old technician at Vodafone's HQ in Newbury, Englandshire.

Neil sent it as a 'telenote' from his computer to his boss's Orbitel 901 phone. First message of its kind. Now three billion are sent a week. And that's just by one teenage girl.

I can't remember anything about my first text, so it can't be in the same league of significance as your first kiss. Mind you, I can't remember that either, so maybe it's just me.

According to an Ofcom report, texting is now the most popular way to stay in contact.

Must say, I'm more an e-mail man, and believe that has been a boon.

You can arrange to meet friends without the awkwardness of phoning.

Nothing is easy nowadays and organising a time and place for any get-together involves much negotiation.

Far easier to do that by e-mail than to spring a surprise call on folk, who may feel tempted to lie instinctively that they are busy. That's what I do anyway. Generally speaking, I say 'no' to life and have to be persuaded to do anything. Life would be great if we didn't have to do stuff.

In an e-mail, you don't have to make broader, polite conversation either, but can get to the point briskly.

Texting takes that too far, in my view. Everything about it is too small, from your choice of words - since, with my fingers at any rate, you have to type every word three times before getting it right - to the length of your actual message.

Hence the many acronyms that have arisen, from 182 (I hate you) - generally sent to parents - to ATAB (ain't that a bitch?). Marvellous stuff.

Texting has also reduced greatly the mobile phone conversation and the awful rudeness of people breaking off a face-to-face conversation to take a call for the next 20 minutes. Used to experience that a lot. Yet I never got any calls myself.

I'd be out with an under-librarian or something, and their phone would never stop, while the so-called journalist (as we're inevitably known on the internet) never received an urgent message about anything.

Again, maybe it's just me. I tend to keep myself out of the loop, quietly submitting e-mails and hoping that no one'll bother me. And the ruddy sods don't.

Mind you, texting seems worse than mobile phone calls for a lack of street etiquette or safety. Every driver has had to slam on the brakes as some dweeb crosses a junction with his or her beak pressed to the screen.

I wonder where we'll go from here. Telepathy, I suppose. How scary would that be? Every time I put myself in the place of an actor having his mind read in a film - like Boromir by Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings - I always think: "I bet I'd start thinking of something rude."

You would, wouldn't you? Someone's reading your mind to find out about the secret ring of power and all they're getting is something about pants. But, hey, maybe that's just me.


From Belfast Telegraph