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The short history of the emoji

We all use them on a daily basis to express how we feel, what we are doing and even as an extension of our personality or state of mind. It is a convenient, easy to use, understand (and misunderstand) way to communicate. We are of course talking about the smiley or the emoji and today its hard to imagine a world without them. But how did it all start?

First emoji probably a misprint

The year is 1862 and the United States are in the midst of the American Civil War when The New York Times printed a transcribed copy of a speech given by President Abraham Lincoln in August 1862 and accidentally used the first emoticon " :) " .

First intentional emoji

Later on in march of 1881 the first intentional use of smileys were used in the satirical magazine Puck. The magazine included a pice of Typographical art illustrating joy, melancholy, indifference and astonishment using only typography.

Fast forward a hundred years

To the later part of the previous century and we have a lot of contributions to the development of the smiley. In 1982 Scott Fahlman suggested to use "joke markers" to reduce misunderstanding on the university's online bulletin boards, in 1993 unicode 1.1.0 released characters reminiscent of emoji and in 1997 when the AOL instant messenger was released it helped to spread the popularity of the "Buddy Icons". As you can see there are a lot of different influences that helped to shape the emergence of the smiley, but there is one creator in particular that often is credited as being the father of the modern smiley.

Party like it's 1999

Enter Shigetaka Kurita a Japanese artist that wanted a simple way to convey information on the mobile platform he worked on and ended up creating the first set of 176 emojis (as seen on the top of the page).

Even though there was a lack of happy poops, eggplants and bumping fists a closer look at the first emojis allows one to overlook the rudimentary first impression of the emojis and appreciate the complexity and remarkable efficiency of the smileys created in a time with limited technology. The popularity in Japan grew widely, but the emoji didn't conquer the world until 2010, when they first appeared in Unicode.

Other honourable contributors that deserve to be mentioned in our (very) short history of the emoji are MSN messenger, the smartphone or maybe more specifically the iPhone and Google (Gmail) that all helped to spread the emojis popularity on a global scale.

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