Emerging Technology

The smiley face turns 25

SmartCompany /

You know the sign :-). Well, a few days ago it turned 25 years old.

At 11.44am on 19 September 1982, Scott E Fahlman, a research professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said in an email to his colleagues that: “I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-). Read it sideways.”

Professional Fahlman then said: “Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use :-(”

IT Wire reports that to celebrate the 25th anniversary, an annual Smiley Award has been created, with a $US500 prize. In a comment published by Fahlman at Google News, the professor notes that the Smiley Award is for “innovation in technology-assisted human-to-human communication”, but is “intended for current students (graduate and undergraduate) at Carnegie Mellon University”.

At Fahlman’s web page on the smiley , he says that: “I’ve never seen any hard evidence that the 🙂 sequence was in use before my original post, and I’ve never run into anyone who actually claims to have invented it before I did. But it’s always possible that someone else had the same idea – it’s a simple and obvious idea, after all.”

There is a bit of debate about who was the first to use the sign, but Fahlman says in his defence: “The smiley idea may have appeared and disappeared a few times before my 1982 post, but it is pretty clear from the timing that my suggestion was the one that finally took hold, spread around the world, and spawned thousands of variations.”

What’s you favourite emoticon? Or do you think they are silly? Do you

Email us: [email protected].


SmartCompany is the leading online publication in Australia for free news, information and resources catering to Australia’s entrepreneurs, small and medium business owners and business managers.

We Recommend