It was 20 years ago today

Well, almost, but close enough to 20 years ago (on September 19 in fact), one of the most evolutionary events in Internet history took place. On that day in the Carnegie Mellon School for Computer Science, Scott Fahlman sent the following e-mail to his colleagues regarding ways to convey emotion in text messages.

"I propose that the following character sequence be used as joke markers :-)," he wrote. "Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use :-(."

Finding this e-mail has proven to be a task of almost Herculean effort. Mike Jones, a networking researcher for Microsoft, decided that finding the first ever emoticon was of historical importance and the mission led him to Carnegie Mellon's ancient type archives.

Scott Fahlman is still doing research at Carnegie Mellon, though he now also does projects for IBM, specialising in knowledge base software.