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Smiley face turns 25. Are you :-)

world Updated: Sep 19, 2007 02:34 IST

AP
Highlight Story

It was a serious contribution to the electronic lexicon.

Twenty-five years ago, Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman says, he was the first to use three keystrokes — a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis — as a horizontal “smiley face” in a computer message.

To mark the anniversary on Wednesday, Fahlman and his colleagues are starting an annual student contest for innovation in technology-assisted, person-to-person communication. The Smiley Award, sponsored by Yahoo Inc., carries a $500 (about Rs 20,000) cash prize. Language experts say the smiley face and other emotional icons, known as emoticons, have given people a concise way in e-mail and other electronic messages of expressing sentiments that otherwise would be difficult to detect.

Fahlman posted the emoticon in a message to an electronic bulletin board at 11.44 am on September 19, 1982, during a discussion about the limits of online humour and how to denote comments meant to be taken lightly.

“I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-)," wrote Fahlman. "Read it sideways."

The suggestion gave computer users a way to convey humour or positive feelings with a smile — or the opposite sentiments by reversing the parenthesis to form a frown.

Carnegie Mellon said Fahlman’s smileys spread from its campus to businesses to around the world as the Internet gained popularity. “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 said.