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Emoji Facts: History

Emojis have taken the world by storm, but they are even more revolutionary than some people may realize. The 1990s were a pivotal decade in the tech world because we made several advancements in creating the technology that we have available today. Isn’t it crazy that we’ve made vast steps forward in communication by using a language similar to hieroglyphs? It’s fascinating to look back and see how our language has evolved to include these tiny pictures.

It all started back in 1982 when a computer scientist named Scott Fahlman pitched the idea of using these symbols called ‘joke markers’ on online bulletin boards. Adding a ‘:-)’ when telling a joke helped lower the number of misunderstandings. These emoticons continued to be popular through the years, well into the 1990s.

The next big step toward the keyboard full of emojis on our phones was in 1997. AOL’s instant messenger added ‘Buddy Icons’ with the purpose of being able to add expression and emotion to messages. These little black and white symbols looked kind of like 8-bit versions of the emojis we use today. Joke markers and Buddy Icons were a hit, and people were beginning to realize how much easier it was to convey how we feel within our messages by using them. This was the beginning of a digital language.

Just two years later, in 1999, the father of emojis made his mark. A Japanese artist named Shigetaka Kurita worked on a development team for the popular mobile platform i-mode, under the mobile carrier DoCoMo. He and some colleagues noticed that a number of people were sending picture messages along with their texts, so they came up with an idea. Inspired by road signs, Kurita wanted a simple, concise way to add more complex meaning through text. He created an original set of 176 emojis that featured zodiac signs, weather, transportation, technology, and more.

This concept caught on and grew in popularity all throughout Japan, inspiring rival companies to produce their own sets of emojis. Eventually, the idea took root outside of Japan as well.

In 2007, a team at Google started a petition to get the Unicode Consortium to recognize emoji. The Unicode Consortium is a nonprofit group that works to standardize codes for languages across platforms. Before they existed, there were hundreds of standards for text encoding. Because of their work, people can type different letters and symbols from any language and it will show up as the same symbol on every device or platform. They agreed that emojis should be standardized, and now they have a subcommittee that meets twice a week solely for emojis.

Apple has been one of the biggest contributors to the emoji library.

They noticed the popularity of these little pictograms and decided to try it out.

Beginning in 2008, they released iPhone OS 2.2 in Japan that featured an emoji keyboard for the first time.

In 2009, two apple engineers sent a proposal to Unicode Consortium to add 625 emoji characters; they accepted and the emojis were added in 2010. In 2011, emoji keyboards became available worldwide with ios 5.0. (Android followed two years later.)

In 2012, Apple finally switched to using Unicode-compatible emojis so that they could be received across devices.

As this digital vocabulary grew, so did the feedback. People demanded more diversity and culture be represented, and Apple has been slowly delivering it.

In 2015, they began to diversify their emoji library significantly. Adding the option to change the skin tones on some emojis was only the beginning. They also added more gender diversity in the professions, different types of family units, flags, cultural foods, and more.

A lot of people use emojis nowadays. This digital language is continuing to grow and become more complex as the years go by, and for good reason! Emojis give more emotional depth to text messages, social media posts, emails, and more. Though some people just consider them to be silly additions to text messages, they actually create a revolutionary language that isn’t restricted by cross-culture barriers. Unlike the languages we speak, almost everyone can understand pictures. Emojis are a quick and easy form of communication that we can use outside of our native language. Maybe the Egyptians had it right all along.

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