No matter how good you are at speaking or writing, language has an awful lot of limitations. Feelings are one of the many facets that are hard to express through spoken language. Perhaps this is the reason why human beings have been seeking a way to symbolize feelings through spoken language in other forms, including emoji.
In April 1857, National Telegraphic Review and Operators Guide documented the first use of the number ’73’ in Morse code as an expression of ‘love and kisses’, which was then adjusted into a more appropriate form of ‘best regards’.
In this era of digital communication, emoji have become an essential part of our daily conversation. These days, seniors are probably the only cohort who don’t use emoji when conversing via a digital device ^,^…
However, have you ever wondered how emoji came to life in the first place?
Before emoji, the symbol of expression in written discourse came in the form of emoticons. Emoticons are facial expression symbols that are made of punctuation.
The early history of emoticons is a little bit difficult to verify. Still, the earliest sign of emoticon use in the printed medium can be found on the transcript of Abraham Lincoln’s speech in 1862. The transcript documented the audience reaction who felt awe for the 16th president of the United States in the form of “(applause and laughter ;).”
Nevertheless, none could clarify whether the punctuation marks were an emoticon or just simply a typographical error.
In 1881, Puck magazine became the first printed publication to use typographical punctuation marks as a way to convey emotion. Yet these typographical expressions were made in a horizontal orientation.
It wasn’t until September 19, 1982, that Scott Fahlman became the first person to suggest the use of emoticons ‘:-)’ and ‘:-(‘ to mark whether posts were jokes or serious in a computer science forum at the Carnegie Mellon University.
In 1999, emoji was brought to life by Shigetaka Kurita in Japan. Kurita was a member of a team that had been assigned to a project by Docomo to make an internet service for mobile devices in Japan called ‘i-mode’.
At first, emoji was made with the goal to reduce the number of characters on phones with a monochromatic display. At the time, the phones’ LCD display could only show 48 characters. But then again, a picture is often worth a thousand words.
The initial problem with emoji was that it wasn’t compatible with various devices. Emoji that could be displayed on one particular device might now show up on other devices.
But then in 2007, Google (Kat Momoi, Mark Davis, and Markus Scherer) wrote the first draft which suggested emoji code point to be taken into consideration by Unicode Technical Committee. Apple (Yasuo Kida and Peter Edberg) followed suit in 2009.
Finally, in 2010, several sets of emoji characters were incorporated into Unicode by the Unicode Consortium, a non-profit corporation that develops and maintains code standardization on a global scale, so that you can express feelings without any constraint through emoji, even though you are chatting with people who have different devices throughout the world… Yay…! ^,^
Smile! A History of Emoticons – The Wall Street Journal
A Brief History of Emoticon – Mashable
Emoji History – Storify
Where Did Emoji Come From – iEmoji
Translated by Glenn Kaonang