Celebrating Our Keyboard Antics
I recently stumbled across an article proclaiming the 25th birthday of something I bet we've all used in our online communications, at least once. Can you guess what it is? I'll give you a hint - it has to do with the punctuation keys on the keyboard.
Did you get it? It's the 25th birthday of the smiley face icon, or emoticon, in contemporary terminology.
On September 19, 1982, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, a Scott E. Fahlman, suggested to an online academic bulletin board that there needed to be a way to convey emotion. Since we can't tell how the online writer is feeling when they're "emoting", he proposed the smiley face icon :-) when making a joke or wanting the readers to smile. (Smart man, that Professor Fahlman.) We've been emoting online ever since. Granted, the annoying, animated emoticons also have come into existence over the years, but the original purpose remains.
There are many other, clever emotion icons that have been invented since 1982 as well. Some are:
;) - winking
:D - big grin
;;) - batting eyelashes
:-* - kiss
/:) - raised eyebrow
O:-) - angel
:O) - clown
Some are more readily apparant than others, but the thought is there.
Here are a few emoticons that I simply don't get:
#-:S - whew!
=)) - rolling on the floor
:-SS - nailbiting
=P~ - drooling
(maybe some kerning or a different font would help...)
Another tidbit of information on this birthday and designation - Professor Fahlman and colleagues, sponsored by Yahoo!, have started an annual contest for innovation in tech-assisted, person-to-person innovation. This "Smiley Award" comes with a $500 cash prize.