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Text messages turn 20, but face competition from apps

The world's first text message was sent today in 1992 -- but as social networking and IM apps take off, is the text dying?

Texting is 20. The world's first text message was sent on this day, 3 December, back in 1992 -- but as social networking and IM apps take off, is the era of the humble text over?

22-year-old British engineer Neil Papworth sent "Merry Christmas" from his computer to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone on Vodafone two decades ago today. Short Message Service was originally seen as useful for sending notifications of voicemails, but the no-frills 160-character text message soon captured the public imagination.

Celebrating the 20th birthday of the SMS message, phone watchdog Ofcom reveals that the average Briton sends around 50 texts each week. And 12-15 year olds reckon they send an average of 193 texts every week.

Last year more than 150 billion text messages were sent in Britain, a number which had tripled in the previous five years. But 2012 has seen a decline in the number of texts sent as smart phones give us access to instant messaging apps or Facebook and Twitter conversations. After all, texts still cost money (or at least come as part of your contract), whereas other forms of messaging are free.

Texts aren't the only thing celebrating their anniversary. The first mobile phone call was made in Britain on Vodafone on new year's day 1985 -- and that first call was made by none other than beloved comedian, hoofer and partner of Eric Morecambe, Ernie Wise.

Speaking of technology firsts involving light entertainers, the first person to withdraw money from an automated teller machine in this country was On the Buses star Reg Varney, in 1967. Because cashcards and PINs came later, the first cash machines used lightly radioactive cheques to recognise you.

Do you remember your first text message? Do you still text, or have other forms of chat replaced SMS in your life? Drop me a text in the comments or on our Facebook page.