Monday, August 17, 2015

Smileys, Emoticons and Emojis

Using just words to convey your thoughts or ideas can be difficult. It's even more tricky when you only have a small number of characters, such as when you send a text message or when you tweet & post to your favourite social network. How are those reading to know when you're being serious and when you have your tongue firmly in your cheek? 
Because you intersperse additional icons and images into your words. A smiley, an unhappy face symbol or something more complex. 

Back in 1963 Harvey Ball invented the smiley in an attempt to improve employee morale at The State Mutual Life Assurance Company in Massachusetts. Harvey was only paid $45 for the 10 minutes of work it took to create the design, but neither him nor his employer copyrighted the design. The idea blossomed and the little yellow smiling face he created have been used for many things including the symbol for the acid house dance music craze of the late 1980's (apparently by adopting the smiley face badge image from the 1986 graphic novel 'The Watchmen'). 

emoticons are a digital way to create Ball's smiley online my using plain text (they don't need a specific font or even a high resolution screen). 
Their use first occurred in September 1982 when Scott Fahlman a computer scientist using the Carnegie Mellon University message board first proposed that the two symbols :-) and :-( could be used online to distinguish jokes from serious comments.
The emoticon theme has been extended over time into creating other well-known symbols, such as one winking, one poking out its tongue and one being sick.

Despite looking similar, emojis are different from emoticons in key ways: 

- they are not created by using plain text to represent a face or other icon
- they are created when technology companies agree on a reference for an image
- they can be implemented slightly differently by each technology platform or smart phone operating system builder

Emojis haven't been around as long as emoticons. They were created in the late 1990's by the Japanese communications firm NTT DoCoMo. However according to a study from The University of Bangor, the Emoji is now the fastest growing language in the UK and evolving faster than ancient forms of communication, such as hieroglyphics.
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