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franklin county times

Smile, it's your birthday

By Staff
Jason Cannon
Some one that most of us have seen at least once in our lives celebrates a birthday today.
He, or possibly she, turns 25.
Twenty-five years ago, Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman said he was the first to use three keystrokes – a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis – as a horizontal "smiley face" in a computer message.
The technical term for his invention is an emoticon, but we know it better as a simple sideways smiley face :-)
I've got a friend who closes every email with a smiley face or one of its siblings, including but not limited to the wink 😉 and wink with its tongue sticking out ;P
My favorite is :o – it's supposed to be surprised, I guess.
To mark the anniversary today, Fahlman and his colleagues will begin an annual student contest for innovation in technology-assisted, person-to-person communication.
The Smiley Award, sponsored by Yahoo Inc., carries a $500 cash prize.
Fahlman posted the now world-famous face in a message to an online electronic bulletin board at 11:44 a.m. on Sept. 19, 1982, during a discussion about the limits of online humor and how to show comments that were meant to be taken lightly.
"I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-)," Fahlman typed.
"Read it sideways."
The smiley face soon spread across campus, and on to Fahlman's colleagues and friends before trekking across the globe.
Fahlman admitted that there was no real concrete way to determine who actually invented the smiley face, but added that he'd never seen one before he posted it in the early 80s, and no one has ever come forward to contest his claim.
It's not that it really matters.
In all reality, all Fahlman's managed to do is create – or think of – something that is used millions of times each day by people around the world, and he doesn't have a penny to show for it.
It's not trademarked and from the articles I've read about its birthday-of-sorts, he doesn't really care.
For his unselfishness, I think Mr. Fahlman deserves to reap a little from what he's sown.
Happy anniversary, sir. :-)

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