Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

20 Years Later, Texts Change Conversation

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

20 Years Later, Texts Change Conversation

Article excerpt

When UK engineer Neil Papworth sent the world's first SMS -- short message service -- text message in December 1992, he had no clue his "Merry Christmas" greeting would start a trend that would become part of both revolutions and basic teen conversations.

But 20 years and millions of smartphones later, what was intended to be a tool for brief statements has become the medium that kicks off the day's conversations even before most people are awake.

"Even when most of us are asleep, young adults' smartphones continue buzzing from inbound texts. In fact, 37 percent of 18- to 24-year-old smartphone owners receive texts at 4 in the morning," reads a summary of a recent Experian Simmons national consumer study.

The survey of approximately 25,000 U.S. adults used data from a mobile panel that collects information directly from 1,485 smartphones. The study is accredited by the New York-based nonprofit Media Rating Council, formed by Congress in 1964 to ensure accuracy in measurement services.

Other data had tracked the increased usage of texts over the decades.

The number of yearly text messages sent in the U.S. skyrocketed from 240.8 billion in June 2007 to 2.27 trillion by June of this year, according to Washington, D.C.-based trade group Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.

The jump was likely due to a surge in use among young adults. Fifty-nine percent of all adults and 85 percent of adults ages 18- 24 use their phone to text during a typical week, according to the Experian Simmons study.

The most unexpected revelations came from consumers' shifting attitudes toward the importance of a text message, said Bill Tancer, Experian Marketing Services' general manager of research.

"One of the most interesting points we found was that among 18- to-34-year-olds, 48 percent said having a text conversation is as meaningful as a phone call.

"I think in the past text was a way of getting a burst of information to someone to get a quick response. Today I think it's starting to act like a medium of conversation," said Mr. Tancer.

Meanwhile, it has also cut the number of young people who engage in the traditional forum. …

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