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25 Years Of The Smiley

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What started as a joke on the Carnegie-Mellon University message boards became a fixture in email and instant messages.

Yahoo Messenger’s Terrell Karlsten wrote up an interview he conducted with a special guest. Scott Fahlman of Carnegie-Mellon has long been credited with inventing the smiley.

That originated in a conversation posted to a CMU message thread dated September 16, 1982. Fahlman suggested the sequence :-) as a way to designate a post as one with humorous intent, presumably for the humor-impaired.

Fahlman’s Yahoo interview noted how the concept quickly spread to other message board users. People began to create new smileys, like ones indicating surprise, or even renditions of people like the Pope or Abraham Lincoln.

“It was gratifying that my colleagues found the idea so amusing, but I figured that it would stop there and would gradually fade away as the novelty wore off,” Fahlman said.

It didn’t, instead becoming a feature on messaging clients like Yahoo’s, AOL’s, and others after the Internet began reaching a broader commercial audience in the 1990s.

Fahlman isn’t really a fan of the heavily-animated smileys seen on rich messaging clients today. He would like to have one that truly captures emotion, like Munch’s “The Scream,” he said in the interview.

“When deadlines are looming and things are going wrong, I

25 Years Of The Smiley
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