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So, What is SMS and text messaging all about?

Text messaging, texting, or text, is writing and sending brief messages from ones mobile phone to another's mobilephone. The person that sends the message is called a texter. Texting started on SMS or short messaging services, but has since moved to include MMS, which stands for Multimedia messaging services. With Multimedia Messaging Services pictures, videos, and more can be sent along with actual text messages.

The first text message was sent December 3rd, 1992, by a 22 year old Neil Papworth. He was a test engineer for the Sema group in the UK at the time. Neil Papworth texted "Merry Christmas" over a Vodafone network to a Mr. Richard Jarvis. The first text message was sent from a personal computer to a phone.

The initial uptake of text messaging was very slow. By 1995, there were only 0.4 messages sent per customer per month. The reasons for this were many, but it all rested on the fact that the legal framework and customer protections had not yet been put into place. Today about 27 texts are sent per user per day, many of them being charged for by the operator but a number of the texts are SMS messages sent free online.

Text messaging is usually used between two private phones. Text messages are used when calling would be inappropriate, when it's easier to just give a quick message, or when it's cheaper or even free to text rather than to call. However texting can be used for more than just sending messages between private phones.

Text messaging can be used to microblog on sites that accept that, which is like making a very tiny blog post or texting to a microblog site. An example microblog site would be twitter or the very popular weibo in China.

Text messaging is used by local government authorities to alert citizens of impending weather calamities in The United States. It is also used for other weather alerts like tornados, heat advisories, thunderstorms, and flash floods. Citizens must sign up for the service and when a warning goes out, they will receive a free text message.

In the UK it is used to text for emergency services. Much like The United States, users must sign up for the ability to text message for help. It is touted as a way to reach emergency services when signal strength is weak.

In The United States, it is also used for doctors and patients to communicate. Direct Care Doctors in The United States frequently give their subscribed patients their personal mobile phone numbers to text them on and email addresses for emergency communications. In this type of set up, a doctor is literally only a text away.

In the UK text messages are used for reminders of hospital appointments. Text messages have saved almost 151 million pounds, simply by reminding people to attend to their appointments.

These few examples are far from all that is the available applications for text messaging. There are also commercial applications.

There are short codes, which are special codes that are shorter than a regular telephone number. These short codes are then used to text to a service and perhaps donate £10. For example, the Red Cross has a short code of 90999. If you text that number and provide the correct key word, you will have £10 added to your phone bill or deducted from your airtime. There is a limit on how many text donations are allowed to be added to the phone bill per month.

Besides text message giving, there is also text message paying. Similar to the short code for the Red Cross, this same system can be used to pay for items in a vending machine or at various stores.

Other ways companies are using text messaging include Pizza Hut having texters text HUT to a short code for free cheese sticks. Redbox was giving away one free rental per month if a user sent freebies to their SMS short code. Jurassic Park 3D offered texters a chance to win movie tickets or cash, if they agreed to SMS JP3D to a short code. Jack in the box offered free tacos to anyone that texted JackSB to their short code. These companies are using text messaging to advertise to people, directly to their mobile phones, and the customer pays for the privilege of seeing these ads as each text usually costs a certain amount of money.

There are other commercial applications of text messages. There are premium text messaging services that supply instant news, weather, stock prices and more directly to the inbox of any user that pays for the service. There are also messaging services like cha cha, which answer user's questions for a price.

Another application is "freemium" services that will text a subscriber when something they wanted goes on sale, new products are offered, a job opens up, or a list of micro jobs available for the day.

Additionally text messages are being used with long codes, which are much like short codes but longer, to allow audiences to vote on their television shows, participate on product promotions, and so much more.

Beyond the commercial applications, text messaging is having profound social and linguistic effects. Now it is possible to carry on two conversations at once and have it throughout the day without time constraints being placed on that conversation. Communications can continue in situations where vocal conversations would not be acceptable by social standards. However, it has replaced many face to face conversations and this is troubling to many older people.

Linguistically speaking it has changed the lexicon. Now abbreviations like txt msg, lol, fml, and lmfao are common in the English language. Those who use Cyrillic or Greek alphabets have taken to adapting the Latin alphabet to text messages. Diacritic marks are being dropped in order to save space on text messages. Due to this pervasive takeover of the written word, schools in New Zealand allow text message speak to be used on exams. The world over, adults are concerned that younger generations are destroying the written word.

In short, text messaging is a revolution in the way people communicate, relate to one another, and even in the way people write.

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