:-) is turning 25! Happy birthday, emoticon!

:-) is turning 25! Happy birthday, emoticon!

Today, Sept. 18, is the 25th anniversary of the smiley-face emoticon. At 11:44 a.m. on this day in 1982, Scott E. Fahlman, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, first typed the smiley-face emoticon, :-), on an online bulletin board as part of a discussion about how to signal that an online comment is being made in jest.

The historic phrase, located after a “heroic effort” of digging through ancient backup tapes, reads as follows:

I propose the following character sequence for joke markers:


Read it sideways.

A reproduction of the original bulletin board thread that gave rise to the emoticon is available here. (The discussion reveals that “&” and “#” were also proposed joke markers. The character “&” supposedly looks like a “jolly fat man in convulsions of laughter,” and “#” supposedly resembles “two lips with teeth showing between them.”)

Fahlman writes on his Web page about 🙂: “I’ve never seen any hard evidence that the 🙂 sequence was in use before my original post, and I’ve never run into anyone who actually claims to have invented it before I did.”

Fahlman seems to have cemented his place in history as the creator of the smiley-face emoticon, which has spawned the creation of other emoticons and given Internet users worldwide the ability to express what in verbal communication is normally conveyed through tone of voice. In doing so, he has probably helped millions of people avoid all sorts of misunderstandings and hurt feelings. And that should make everyone feel :-).