Read it sideways.
September 13, 2002 12:39 AM   Subscribe

Read it sideways. The first smiley was posted to usenet on September 19, 1982. Almost twenty years later, the original posting is uncovered on an old tape backup (after a search that smiley-inventor Scott Fahlman has dubbed the “Digital Coelacanth Project”). Of note: Mr. Fahlman thinks that AOL’s and MSN’s penchant for replacing the smiley-string with little pictures “destroys the whimsical element of the original.”
posted by sherman (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
That means that it's 20th birthday is six days away.

Shit, and I don't even know what to buy.
posted by at 12:44 AM on September 13, 2002

... and then the japanese hopped onto the train... ^_^
posted by zerofoks at 12:54 AM on September 13, 2002

Mr. Fahlman thinks that AOL’s and MSN’s penchant for replacing the smiley-string with little pictures “destroys the whimsical element of the original.”

i'm inclined to agree.
posted by joedan at 1:26 AM on September 13, 2002

gosh, looking at that site I tried and tried to read the smiley as a colon minus close parenthesis and it was impossible to do.
posted by darkpony at 1:30 AM on September 13, 2002

(03-Oct-82) Any pointers to digitized images of short, cute aliens holding power tools would be greatly appreciated.

Ahhh. Here it is, 20 years later, and so very little has changed. *wipes lone tear from cheek*
posted by contessa at 2:07 AM on September 13, 2002

Mike Jones (who worked at CMU when the post was made and remembers thinking when he read it "what a good idea!")

Yeah, right, sure he did.

Similarly, I remember watching Ronald Reagan adopting a chimp in Bedtime for Bonzo and thinking one day he'll be President of the USA. Of course, I was thinking about the chimp.

Hi, by the way.
posted by squealy at 2:08 AM on September 13, 2002

Joedan, I think that replacing the smiley-strings with pictures instead makes one's posts, IMs, e-mails, what have you, look less like a communique' and more like a Wal-Mart ad, and since I get no royalties from Wal-Mart, I deactivate autosmilies whenever possible.

Contessa, I couldn't have said it better myself. As such, you get one of these:

posted by Carnosaur at 2:18 AM on September 13, 2002

contessa: I'm assuming that was a tear of happiness and content.
posted by mischief at 2:36 AM on September 13, 2002

mischief: It was a tear of poignant wistfulness :)
posted by contessa at 2:48 AM on September 13, 2002

Lore is SO cool.
posted by insomnyuk at 2:51 AM on September 13, 2002

I would like to have seen the postings in the original font . . .
posted by Numiko at 3:00 AM on September 13, 2002

arguably the best device to ever come out of the ol' alma matter. i remember hating those things when i was first aware they were saturating the internet (i'm not sure if it was my awareness that changed or if their popularity was just blooming or both), but i've come to appreciate them. even when i see some stupid IM smiley faces, or stupid promotional gear at Wal-Mart or whatever, i always kind of think "hey, some very, very old and very, very dorky person made that!" i guess i think that's a good thing...
posted by fsck the police at 3:15 AM on September 13, 2002

And then it went farther still... (except you don't read these sideways)
posted by boomchicka at 4:01 AM on September 13, 2002

The incredible thing is that the level of anal (3rd picture down) retentiveness on the Internet has not significantly changed in 20 years. Should Internet be capitalized by the way? No, I guess not ... no it should ... no ....
posted by ElvisJesus at 4:02 AM on September 13, 2002

; )
posted by Shane at 5:47 AM on September 13, 2002

It's the earliest (not necessarily first) discovered online (not offline) smiley.

The earliest recorded smiley in print discovered so far was found by etymologist and word researcher Barry Popik who posted a message to the email list of the American Dialect Society, copied below. He also discusses the yellow smiley face which everyone knows, but this particular smiley is the familiar punctuation-based emoticon. (On a side note, he has uncovered some evidence that Harvey Ball *did not* invent the familiar yellow-faced smiley.)

[begin quote]

This continues discussion of the pictograph known as the "smiley." It's authorship was credited to the late Harvey Ball (who drew it in the 1960s). "Smiley" is in an ad in the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, 10 March 1953, pg. 20, cols. 4-6. See for yourself. The ad is for the film LILI, with the "delightful" Leslie Caron. The "World Premiere Today" is at the Trans-Lux 52nd on Lexington. The film opened nationwide, and this ad possibly ran in many newspapers.


You'll laugh :)
You'll cry :(
You'll love (Heart-shaped face--ed.)

[end quote]
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:57 AM on September 13, 2002

"I often think there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile -- some sort of concave mark, a supine round bracket, which I would now like to trace in reply to your question." -- Vladamir Nabokov, "Strong Opinions" (1973)

Although, to my knowledge, he never actually drew it, so Harvey Ball has him beat.
posted by UnReality at 6:07 AM on September 13, 2002

Now when was the first occurance of pancakes in a thread?
posted by KnitWit at 6:57 AM on September 13, 2002

KnitWit - in the MetaFilterian sense, here.
posted by rory at 7:15 AM on September 13, 2002

Good God......... This is like reading a MeTa topic!
posted by SpecialK at 7:48 AM on September 13, 2002

(The original smiley thread, that is.)
posted by SpecialK at 7:50 AM on September 13, 2002

Thus, the Fahlman Initiative was launched. Society was never to be the same.
posted by rushmc at 11:00 AM on September 13, 2002

My smileys always had goatees. :-)>

Then AOL, et al, started using graphic smileys in their instant message programs, so my goateed smiley wound up reading like an incomplete math problem: "smiley is greater than."
posted by fredosan at 1:10 PM on September 13, 2002

i hope i can pull it off here... but i like to have my smilies be vertictal

* *
posted by the aloha at 1:22 PM on September 13, 2002

"We on the gandalf vax have our own code word for a joke. The above symbol
is universally known as a smile."

ain't these people fun .
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:34 PM on September 13, 2002

he's probably being melodramatic, ironic, etc.. in the manner of some geeks.

Film people may do so from time to time as well, less so musicians in my experience. (I dislike drama people and give them not credit =p)
posted by firestorm at 5:38 PM on September 13, 2002

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