World’s first text message – one Vodafone employee wishing another ‘Merry Christmas’ in 1992 – is expected to sell for £170,000 as it goes up for auction

  • Neil Papworth, a British programmer, sent the first SMS 29 years ago. 
  • Neil wrote “Merry Christmas” on his computer, and then sent it to a colleague at Vodafone
  • Mobile phone giant is selling that text as an NFT at Paris auction house Aguttes
  • Experts predict it could fetch up to £170,000 when it goes under the hammer 

A digital replica of the world’s first ever text message is set to go under the hammer, where it is expected to fetch more than £150,000.  

The iconic SMS, which paved the path for the future nearly 30 years ago, has been revived by mobile phone company and offered for sale in Paris as a non-fungible token.

Neil Papworth, a 22-year old British programmer sent Richard Jarvis the first ever Short Message Service from a computer on December 3, 1992. 

He had previously been working in the development and testing engineering of a short message service for Vodafone. So he typed ‘Merry Christmas!’ from a computer located at Newbury, Berkshire. 

Mr Jarvis, then a director at the company, successfully received the message on his Orbitel 901 handset – and the pathway to modern messaging was born.

A digital replica of the world's first ever text message is set to go under the hammer in Paris, where it is expected to fetch more than £150,000

A digital replica of the world’s first ever text message is set to go under the hammer in Paris, where it is expected to fetch more than £150,000

In 2017, Mr. Papworth said, “In 1992, I didn’t know how widespread texting would be, and that it would lead to emojis, messaging apps, and millions of users.” 

“I just recently informed my children that that was the first time I had sent that text. It’s easier to look back now with hindsight and see the pivotal moment of mobile history that I sent my Christmas message.    

Now almost 30 years later, this pioneering text will be a collection for tech-savvy, wealthy buyers who attend the French auctioneers.  

Aguttes, France’s premier independent auction house, will hold the auction in Paris on 21 Dec 2021. 

Largely active in the international art and luxury market, it expects to gather bidders from all around the world for this sale – which could fetch up to £170,000.

On December 3, 1992, 22-year-old British programmer Neil Papworth (pictured) sent the first ever Short Message Service (SMS) from a computer to Vodafone colleague Richard Jarvis

Neil Papworth, a 22-year old British programmer (pictured), sent his first SMS (Short Message Service) (SMS) on December 3, 1992 from a Vodafone colleague Richard Jarvis.

A digitalized way to keep collectable assets, such as art and works of literature, is non-fungible. This method has seen an enormous rise in its popularity. 

Mr Aguttes said of the upcoming sale: ‘The first printed book, the first phone call, the first email – all these inventions have changed our lives and communication in the world. 

‘This first text message received in 1992 is a historic testament to human and technological progress – we are delighted to be able to support the sale of this landmark piece of history for this cause.’

Vodafone said that they plan to give The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) will receive all the proceeds. It will support the 82.4 Million people who fled their homelands because of conflict or persecution.

The thumbs up and heart-eyes emojis also made the top ten but flags, despite being the group with the most emojis, were the least used category

Top ten also included the heart-eyes and thumbs up emojis. However, flags were not the most used group despite having the most emojis.

Considering the first was sent in 1992, messaging didn’t become commonplace until the early 2000s.

Mobile phone users sent an average of 0.4 messages per month in 1995.

Now, SMS are used by more than five billion people around the world as we continue to fervently bash keypads with our thumbs.

The rise in text messaging has made it easier to use emojis for modern messaging. 

A new study ranked the UK’s most popular emojis include smiling faces, kisses and hearts.

Unicode Consortium published data showing that the Unicode Consortium’s data showed that after the face of ‘tears’ there was a’red heart, with the emoticon depicting “rolling around laughing with tears” in third.

What exactly is an NFT (non-fungible token)?

What’s a NFT?

A Non-FungibleToken (NFT), is a digital token unique with artist signature that verifies the owner and authenticity of the item.

How do they look?

The majority of NFTs have some digital artwork such as music, photos, videos, GIFs and videos. In theory, any type of digital artwork could be converted into an NFT.

These items can be purchased from many places.

NFTs can be purchased in so-called “drops”, which are timed online sales through blockchain-backed platforms like Opensea, Nifty Gateway and Rarible.

Why would you want one?

A variety of reasons may lead someone to purchase a NFT. Because NFTs can be considered collectors’ items, some may feel they have an emotional or cultural value. Others see them as an investment opportunity, similar to cryptocurrency, since the potential for increase in value.

How did NFTs get started?

Andrew Steinwold, a podcaster and writer, traced NFTs’ origins to 2012 with the creation the Colored Coins crypto. However, NFTs did not become mainstream until five year later when CryptoKitties started selling virtual cats.