Guy Who Thought Up Text Messaging Dies

Finn came up with the idea 8 years before first text sent
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2015 5:26 AM CDT
Guy Who Thought Up Text Messaging Dies
Trillions of text messages are still sent every year.   (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, FILE)

Matti Makkonen didn't much care for being called the "father of SMS," but that's how a lot of people have been describing the tech pioneer after his death at the age of 63. The Finn thought up the idea of sending text via cellphones over a pizza at a conference in 1984, according to a BBC interview from 2012. It was another eight years before the first text was sent, and Makkonen often stressed that it was a "joint effort" and other engineers had contributed as much as he had, Wired reports. He never patented the idea—and didn't think he really had created a "patentable innovation"—but said he didn't regret not making any money out of it.

"I believe that [reliable, convenient-to-use] text messaging will stay forever," he said in the 2012 interview, which was conducted via SMS. "Is not necessary what we call sms. No more pay per message." In the decades after inventing texting, Makkonen worked for several Finnish telecom firms, becoming CEO of Finnet Ltd. for several years. "It's very sad. He was just going to retire and he should have had many years ahead," the company's managing director tells the BBC, describing Makkonen as a "grand old man of the mobile industry." (Read more text message stories.)

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