Emoticon celebrates 30 years :-)

What started out as an inside joke at Carnegie Mellon University has spawned hundreds of faces, emotions, and gestures.

This screensaver by 3D Smilie Guys has stylized modern animations of all types of "emoticons." 3D Smilie Guys

Simple typography that  started out as a colon, dash, and parenthesis has now grown up and blossomed into a massive array of features, moods, and gestures. Who would have thought that a happy face :-) could ever lead to rock horns \m/, or tongue-tied :-&, or just a simple heart <3?

Today, the emoticon turns 30.

In was on September 19, 1982 that Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott Fahlman first typed out the emoticon happy face on an online computer science board, according to Carnegie Mellon.

This is precisely what he wrote:

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

:-(

The idea caught on and spread to other universities and eventually to the rest of the Web. And not only did it spread, it morphed into hundreds of different emotions, like grumpy, drunk, and embarrassed. There are even impersonator emoticons, like Elvis, John Lennon, and Homer Simpson, and they're found on Gmail , the iPhone , and most other typeface platforms.

It's safe to say that today the emoticon is truly ubiquitous. Fahlman never imagined that what he started 30 years ago could ever grow to become so incredibly popular.

"It was ten minutes of my life," he told the Telegraph earlier this month. "I expected my note might amuse a few of my friends, and that would be the end of it."

About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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