Text messaging

It goes without mention that mobile text messaging technology is one of the most advanced forms of digital communication technology used across the globe today, but why does it have to be 160 characters when you send messages to others? Many people have lodged complaints and requests with mobile service providers to increase the current count of text messages, something like that has not really happened and the reason behind this is – in most of the cases it is just not required! For basic communication, a person, most of the times does not require more than 160 characters to express himself.

The story actually dates back to 1985 when Friedhelm Hillebrand was spending a lonely day in his home in Germany. He was actually typing away unspecific messages on a sheet of paper using his typewriter. Over a period of time, he decided to find out how many characters were actually required for a person to express himself clearly. Quite amazingly, the different kinds of expressions that Hillebrand wanted to put on paper always ended up being fewer than 160 characters. This gave him the notion that a person does not need more than that to express himself clearly. A couple of years later, Hillebrand was made the chairperson of the Global System For Mobile Communications and it is then that he decided to introduce something called short messaging service to bring down the cost of the then prevailing mobile communication services.


During those times, mobile phones were not very popular and all major service providers used to charge a bomb for both incoming and outgoing calls. Hillebrand was toying with the idea of introducing something in the lines of a telegram service by harnessing the available resources and not adding to the cost of mobile usage. He, along with a team of engineers found that every mobile phone basically uses two different channels – the primary channel is used for voice communications and the secondary channel is used for sending and searching signals. It is the secondary channel that remains vacant most of the times when a mobile phone is within a service network and Hillebrand decided to use this channel for sending and receiving text messages. This was immediately accepted by service providers across the globe because they had another avenue to make money off their customers.


Over a period of time, the top service providers started heavy charging their customers for using messaging service. Hillebrand decided to put his 160 character theory in place and since the GSM organization is responsible for overseeing the operations of all mobile service providers across the globe, Hillebrand knew that he had the power to help mobile users communicate effectively without having to pay for it. Rules and guidelines were laid down by the organization and all mobile service providers were supposed to offer messaging services to their customers at no extra cost and every text message would have fixed cost because it would always be under 160 characters. That was the beginning of a revolution that changed communication over mobile phones forever.