Carnegie Mellon University, the distinguished birthplace of most cutting edge robotics, one time study hall of mathematician John Nash and host to an undergraduate Andy Warhol, is also the birthplace of a somewhat more suspect invention: the smiley.
Love it or hate it, the smiley is well embedded into our cultural syntax at this point and today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of its first appearance. Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman says he was the first to use the now ubiquitous keystrokes that gave birth to a whole range of emoticons.
Fahlman posted the first emoticon Sept. 19, 1982 in answer to a discussion about the limits of humor in online test and how users could denote comments meant to be taken lightly. Despite the protests of many an English professor, who claim (quite correctly) that the limits of humor in text are the result of poor writing skills, emoticons are here to stay.
For the record Fahlman is open to the idea that he didn’t invent the emoticon, though he does claim that he has never seen hard evidence that the sequence was in use before his posting. If you happen to know different head over to Fahlman’s page and set him straight.