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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Emoticon (Smiley) turns 25

Today signifies the birthdays of many celebrities, Jimmy Fallon, Joan Lunden, and Adam West to name a few, but today each of these stars will share the limelight of 19 September with :-) for its Silver Anniversary.

On this day, 25 years ago, a Carnegie Mellon Univesity computer science professor named Scott E. Fahlman posted a smiley face on an electronic message board, with the accompanying note: "I propose the following character sequence for joke markers."

Unknowingly, with a few simple keystrokes, Fahlman opened up a can of worms in the way we communicate. In 1982, when the posting was made, there was no such thing as e-mail or text messaging, now the primary forms of communication for many people.

A colon for the eyes, a hyphen for the nose and a right parenthesis for the smile; from these grinning beginnings, the emoticon has smiled its way into everyday communication.

Not just content to remain a frozen smirk, it has learned to wink ;-) and stick out its tongue :-p. Sometimes it gets sad :-( or confused :-S, and sometimes it's scared =:-0 but most of the time it's cheerful :-D.

As it grew older, it had its first kiss :-* and smoked its first cigarette :-Q and even grew its hair out &:-). It's shown its fashion sense, too, sporting sunglasses B-) and baseball caps d:-) and even the occasional bow tie :-)8. The emoticon has changed over the years; it's common to see an equal sign replace the semi-colon for the eyes, and much of the time we're too lazy to even give it a nose :).

But tonight, as it reaches the quarter century mark, it simply puts on a birthday hat <:-).

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