HPPY BDAY ;)

Text messaging celebrates its 20th birthday, but is it already facing tech extinction?

Text messaging celebrates its 20th birthday, but is it already facing tech extinction?

It was 20 years ago Monday when one man single-handedly changed the course of spelling forever... and sent the first text message.

Without the aid of emoticons or Internet slang, 22-year-old London engineer Neil Papworth bravely texted the words "Merry Christmas" on Dec. 3, 1992 to a colleague across town at a holiday party.

Without t he aid of emoticons or Internet slang, 22-year-old Neil Papworth bravely texted the words "Merry Christmas" on Dec. 3, 1992.

Texting was no small feat back then, of course.

Working as a researcher for cellular giant Vodafone, Papworth punched out those famous 15 characters on a big desktop computer. On the other end, his friend received the message with an Orbitel 901 — a handheld mobile device roughly the size of today's office telephones (see image to right).

"For me it was just another day's testing, it didn't seem to be anything big at the time," Papworth tells ABC News.

The fact that cell phones in 1992 couldn't yet send reply messages certainly took the fun out of the now-monumental Christmas greeting. The team would have to wait another year for tech firms to catch up with phones featuring text capabilities.

"Years went on and people were able to start to send text messages," the engineer explained. "It took quite a few years for it to take off, but by the 10th anniversary it was fairly big by then."

Yet, as popular as texts have become in the 21st century — an estimated six trillion are sent each year — a recent study cited by the New York Times is already marking the end of texting as we know it.

The culprit? Smartphones integrated with email, social media and instant messaging... options that are not only free, but include that all-important spell check to make sure those Saturday night texts are at least vaguely coherent.

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Texting turns 20 years old!!
texting, phone, 20th birthday, December 2012
The Orbitel 901 in all its glory. WUSA 9/Facebook