The history of emoticons

An emoticon is most often used to express the writer’s mood by using letters and punctuation to form a facial expression. They serve to enhance the communication of a simple text by informing the receiver of the intended tone and temperament of the writer.

An example would be a sarcastic statement that would be lost in the plain text but saved by the use of a smiley face. The word emoticon is formed by mixing the English words icon and emotion. After years of use, many Internet forums and messaging services, as well as many online games, have replaced the typed text with a paired image. For example, if you typed a colon for the eyes and parentheses for the mouth, this text will be replaced with the familiar yellow smiley face that is commonly known. These corresponding images are also known as emoticons. The Japanese name of kaomoji is given to those complex key combinations that can only be performed in double-byte language.

The use of emoticons dates back to the 19th century and they were commonly used in humorous or informal writing. The first use of digital emoticons on the Internet dates back to 1982, in a proposal submitted by a computer scientist at Carnegie Melon. This scientist is considered to be the first to introduce the smiley face emoticon to the web, but this was not the first time the emoticon was used. The first instance of a smiley face being formed from text dates back to a 1967 Reader’s Digest article. Interestingly, Vladimir Nabokov also expressed his interest in emoticons in a 1969 New York Times article in which he proposed a special typographical symbol to represent a smile.

There are numerous examples throughout history of the antecedents of what we now commonly know as emoticons. One of the first examples was detected in Morse Code communications, where the number 73 was used to convey the phrase “love and kisses”. A speech delivered by Abraham Lincoln, dating back to 1862, was said to contain the smug smiley emoticon, but there is some debate as to whether this was a typo or fair use of the textual device. In 1881, the humorous magazine Puck printed a list of some typeface emoticons that included images of Joy, Indifference, Melancholy, and Amazement. What is known as the original emoticon, the smiley face, was actually invented by a freelance artist named Harvey Ball. This yellow emoticon was probably the biggest influence on all the emoticons that followed.

Before the 1980s, there was widespread use of emoticons by those who operated ticker machines. While the teletype machine was restricted to a typewriter keyboard, there were also some special characters and this led to the development of a kind of shorthand among operators. These annotations and marks follow a direct line to the modern emoticons we use as ticker machines were slowly superseded by the use of computers. Some early Internet sites used the “-)” symbol to represent a phrase that was considered ironic. In this case, the script symbol represented a tongue instead of a nose. While these symbols resemble the side-facing smiley emoticons that were to come, it seems like they weren’t meant to be interpreted this way. In this sense, these typographical symbols stand on their own as early representations of symbols that have since fallen out of fashion.

It was Scott Fahlman of Carnegie Mellon University who is credited with first using the sideways smiley face. In a board used by computer scientists, Fahlman suggests that these symbols be used to express humor in order to clear up communication errors. He referred to them as joke bookmarks and the lyrics were lost for almost two decades but have since been recovered. A few months after making these suggestions, there is evidence that usage spread to the Usenet and ARPANET. Users on both boards were quick to suggest variations and different characters to express a variety of emotional levels.

Shortly after these characters became widely used, many online communities found ways to replace the text with the symbols they were meant to represent. This took place in online video games as well as in web forums and instant messaging services. These small images correspond to the variety of text symbols and are also known as smileys. In commonly used versions of Microsoft Word, the AutoCorrect feature often takes the liberty of replacing text symbols with their corresponding images. This is known as graphic replacement and has allowed images to become more complex over time. What were once still images of basic characters have now been transformed into moving images. Many of the newer images go beyond the realm of emotion and into raw information. An example would be the use of a musical note or musical instrument to represent music or sound. The first use of replacing text with moving graphic images is attributed to the Proxicom Forum which revealed a small dance emoticon to symbolize dance. The automatic replacement that is beyond the control of the user has led to a variety of communication problems and unwanted flirtations. An example would be the use of the abbreviated K for OK, which can appear as a pair of red kissing lips.

Since the Western writing style is from left to right, many of the emoticons that have developed in the West follow this pattern, with the eyes on the left and the mouth on the right. The repetition of certain characters is used in the West to express the extreme of an emotion. An example would be repeating smiles or sad mouths in parentheses to express extreme happiness or sadness. Many emoticons can be inverted in the text and then the corresponding emotion is also inverted. The most obvious example is the happy face, P, which turns into the sad face, P: when turned upside down. This textual skill has given rise to hundreds, if not thousands, of variations to help writers express a wide variety of emotional states.

Some style variations will not necessarily alter the emotion that is being portrayed. An example would be replacing the eyes in the figure with an equals sign instead of a colon or semicolon. The use of the colon or equals sign for the eyes has led to the removal of the hyphen as a symbol for the nose from the face. The font used to send the message will often decide which character is best for the particular emotion. Many characters such as 0, o, and O can be used to express shock or dismay to varying degrees. These symbols will be favored by some groups over others and the particular forum or platform will often favor the use of one over another.

In Japan and Korea, the use of emoticons has gained popularity and they have developed a complex system using characters that are often not available on Western keyboards. The popularity of Japanese art such as anime has led to the use and adaptation of many Eastern emoticons for Western keyboards. These are known as anime emoticons and are often complex to form due to the lack of the original letters. Japanese emoticons are known as emoji and many Westerners have become familiar with them due to the popularity of Japanese art and culture in the West. Cross-cultural chat rooms have led many to desire the use of both styles and many emoticons can now be downloaded and used on computers that lack the particular characters to form them due to keyboard limitations.

The Japanese have also taken textual forms further to produce types that represent postures. These are known as Orz, because this emoticon is used to represent a person bowing or kneeling with ‘O’ for head and ‘z’ for feet. The ‘r’ is used to represent the person’s crossed arms. The first use of such a combination of characters to represent posture dates back to 2002 in Japan.

One of the most recent developments in the world of emoticons is emoticons. These are short sounds that can be heard when playing a message and using an emoticon. There are a variety of instant messaging services that have developed sounds to accompany particular emoticons. These sounds have also been used in a wide variety of advertising applications, in an attempt to get viewers to associate a corresponding sound with an image.

The world of emoticons is not without intellectual property battles and the frown or frown was the first of these symbols to be trademarked in the United States. The emoticons have also been trademarked in both Finland and Russia by private companies. While companies and organizations would have to purchase a license to use the symbols in publications, this license would be free for individuals.

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